Panetta urges resumption of peace talks

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RAMALLAH, West Bank, Oct. 4 (UPI) — U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta urged Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas to resume peace talks with Israel, officials said.

Panetta and Abbas met Monday in Ramallah, West Bank, after Panetta met with Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak in Israel, The Jerusalem Post reported Tuesday.

Israel Radio reported Abbas told Panetta he would consider resuming peace negotiations if Israel agreed to stop settlement construction in disputed territories and agreed to a two-state solution on the pre-1967 boundary lines.

Panetta said the United States is committed to a two-state solution, Palestine Liberation Organization official Saeb Erekat told the Ma’an news agency.

“Panetta confirmed to Abbas that U.S. President Barack Obama remained committed to the two-state solution and would dedicate efforts to protect that solution [because] the creation of a Palestinian state is a joint interest for the U.S. [and] Israel, as well as the Palestinians,” Erekat said.

The Pentagon chief also urged “bold action” from Israeli and Palestinian leaders during his meeting with Abbas, Erekat said.

During his meeting Monday with Panetta, Netanyahu repeated his position that Middle East peace can be achieved only “through direct negotiations between the parties.”

Netanyahu also thanked Panetta and Obama for “strengthening the alliance and cooperation” between Israel and the United States, the Post reported.

Panetta said the United States was committed to Israel’s security.

“We have been strong allies, we have been strong partners,” Panetta said. “We have always made a commitment to do everything we can to support the security of Israel and as the secretary of defense, I intend to continue that commitment.”

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