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Page last updated at 17:17 GMT, Monday, 21 September 2009 18:17 UK

Low US hopes for Mid-East summit

Israeli boy waves a flag at the Maale Adumim settlement in the West Bank (07 September 2009)
Israel has rejected demands for a total freeze on settlement building

The US has no "grand expectations" from the summit of Israeli and Palestinian leaders which President Obama is to host on Tuesday, the White House says.

The talks in New York are to discuss the possibility of re-starting the Middle East peace process.

But both Israeli and Palestinian leaders have accused each other of blocking the initiative.

Israel has rejected US and Palestinian demands for a total freeze before a new round of talks can take place.

Mr Obama is bringing Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas together for the first time since Mr Netanyahu came to office nearly six months ago.

"We're looking to continue to build on progress," said White House spokesman Robert Gibbs.

"We have no grand expectations out of just one meeting."

Israeli and Palestinian participants have also said they do not expect many concrete developments to emerge from the meeting.

Israeli government secretary Zvi Herzog said the meeting was "a step in the right direction", but that "conditions are not ripe for a formal re-launch of negotiations".

On Saturday, a senior Palestinian official told AFP news agency the meeting was taking place "because we don't want to disappoint the American administration which wants it held".

"That does not mean a resumption of peace talks," said the official.

'No change'

Disagreements over the settlements issue have blocked all attempts to restart peace talks so far.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (14 September 2009)
Mr Netanyahu said he would not change his views on settlements

US and Palestinian negotiators have said Israel must fully halt work on the construction of settlements in the West Bank before a new round of peace talks can take place, something Israel has refused to do.

Mr Netanyahu had previously offered a temporary freeze for several months, but not in East Jerusalem or in cases where homes have already been approved.

Before leaving for New York, Mr Netanyahu said he would not change his position.

His media adviser, Nir Hefetz, told Israel's Army Radio that some may view freezing settlement activity as a positive move but Mr Netanyahu was "not one of those people".

The BBC's Kim Ghattas in Washington say the US is trying not to raise hopes about the meeting, but it is still a significant moment.

The Israelis and Palestinians have probably only agreed to meet in order not to disappoint Mr Obama, but the question is whether he will be able to get the two sides to agree to anything else, says our correspondent.



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