RAMALLAH, West Bank - Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas will urge U.S. President Barack Obama at their first White House talks to press Israel to halt expansion of Jewish settlements, Palestinian officials said on Tuesday.
Abbas is due to see Obama on Thursday, 10 days after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met the U.S. president in Washington, where they remained at odds over the settlement issue.
Israel must fully halt settlement activities in accordance with 'road map' obligations in order to pave the way for serious negotiations that yield meaningful results, said Nabil Abu Rdainah, an Abbas spokesman, referring to a 2003 peace plan.
This will top the agenda of the meeting with President Obama, Abu Rdainah said. The other thing is that Israel must accept the two-state solution so that we can resume negotiations.
Netanyahu, who has not endorsed creation of a Palestinian state, has rebuffed U.S. calls under the road map to cease settlement activity, including natural growth, or construction in existing enclaves to accommodate expanding families.
Citing Hamas Islamist control of the Gaza Strip and the failure of the previous Israeli government led by Ehud Olmert to reach a peace deal with the Palestinians, Netanyahu has said he wants to shift the focus of talks away from statehood issues to economic, security and political matters.
The president will tell (Obama) we do not want to hear only encouraging words but also want to see measures on the ground and an action plan so that we can save the region from instability and violence, Abu Rdainah said.
Abbas has ruled out restarting long-stalled peace talks until Israel commits itself to the creation of a Palestinian state and halts settlement expansion in the occupied West Bank and in Arab East Jerusalem.
I really believe that we have a good opportunity to advance and make a comprehensive peace in the region. We don't need to reinvent the wheel, Abbas said on Monday after meeting Canadian Foreign Minister Lawrence Cannon in Ottawa.
Half a million Jews live in settlement blocs and smaller outposts built in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, territory captured by Israel in the 1967 Middle East War. The World Court deems such settlements illegal.
Obama, who reaffirmed at his meeting with Netanyahu a commitment to a two-state solution, sees engagement in Palestinian-Israeli peacemaking as crucial to repairing America's image in the Muslim world and drawing moderate Arab states into a united front against Iran.
We really hope that the United States will shift its policy from what's possible to what's needed, Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat said. What's needed is to translate the vision of two states into a realistic political track.
Mustafa Barghouthi, a Palestinian lawmaker, said that without American pressure on Israel there can be no progress toward peace.