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Page last updated at 23:34 GMT, Thursday, 18 March 2010

Netanyahu offers Clinton 'trust-building measures'

Benjamin Netanyahu
Mr Netanyahu had been presented with a number of demands by Washington

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has proposed a series of "trust-building measures" to revive peace talks with the Palestinians.

Mr Netanyahu outlined the steps in a telephone call with the US Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, although details have not yet been made public.

His office said they represented a "real effort" to aid US peace efforts.

Washington presented him with several demands last week after the approval of plans for new homes in East Jerusalem.

The Israeli leader's offer comes a day before Mrs Clinton attends a meeting in Moscow of the Middle East Quartet - the US, EU, UN and Russia.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov earlier said representatives would "search for ways out of the current dangerous impasse in the peace process".

Mitchell visit

The Palestinian Authority has said it will be very difficult to hold indirect "proximity talks" with Israel in the wake of the announcement that 1,600 new housing units would be built in the East Jerusalem settlement of Ramat Shlomo.

In a telephone call last Friday, Mrs Clinton asked Israel's prime minister to agree to a number of US demands, reportedly including a halt to construction in East Jerusalem and a commitment to substantive negotiations with the Palestinians.

Mr Netanyahu did not respond until Thursday evening, when he is said to have "clarified" Israel's position on Jerusalem and conveyed a detailed list of steps he was willing to take in order to revive the peace process.

Mr Netanyahu's office said the steps represented "a real effort by Israel to aid the US administration in renewing negotiations though trust-building measures with the Palestinian Authority".

US state department spokesman PJ Crowley likewise gave no details of the conversation but said Washington would "review the [Israeli] prime minister's response and continue... discussions with both sides to keep proximity talks moving forward".

He added that US Middle East envoy George Mitchell would meet Mr Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in the region this weekend.

'Cannot cancel'

The Washington Post earlier reported that the Israeli leader would tell Mrs Clinton that he could not cancel the Ramat Shlomo expansion plan, but would assure her that it would not happen "any time soon".

The newspaper was told by the Israeli ambassador to the US that Mr Netanyahu would also promise not to publicise further construction plans for Jerusalem.

The Palestinian Authority has refused to resume direct talks with Israel because of its refusal to put a stop to the expansion of settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.

In November, Israel announced a 10-month suspension of new building in the West Bank, under heavy US pressure. But it considers areas within the Jerusalem municipality as its territory and thus not subject to the restrictions.

Close to 500,000 Jews live in more than 100 settlements built since Israel's 1967 occupation of the West Bank and East Jerusalem. They are illegal under international law, although Israel disputes this.



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