Netanyahu and Abbas in first contact since election

ISRAEL’S new prime minister spoke to the Palestinian president yesterday for the first time since taking office, telling him that he seeks close co-operation to drive peace efforts forward.

Talk of co-operation alone, however, is unlikely to satisfy the Palestinian leadership, which wants Israel’s new government to make an unambiguous endorsement of the idea of an independent Palestinian state.

While repeatedly saying he wants peace with the Palestinians, Benjamin Netanyahu has refused to support the internationally backed idea of a Palestinian state alongside Israel since taking office as premier on March 31.

Instead, he has offered the Palestinians “economic peace” — a plan to build up their economy.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has said there is no reason to negotiate if Netanyahu does not support a “two-state solution” to the conflict.

Netanyahu’s office said yesterday’s conversation was initiated by Abbas, who called the Israeli leader to send him greetings for the Jewish Passover holiday.

Netanyahu’s office described the conversation as “warm and friendly”.

Palestinian Foreign Minister Riad Malki said Abbas is expected to visit Washington at the end of the month to discuss the stalled peace talks with President Barack Obama.

This would be the first meeting between the two leaders since Obama’s inauguration.

Obama’s Middle East envoy, George Mitchell, is due to travel to the region, starting today, with stops in Israel, the Palestinian territories, Egypt and other countries.


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