Friday, July 17, 2009

Britain backs call for Israeli settlement freeze

LONDON (Reuters) - A freeze on Israeli settlement construction in the West Bank could help restart the peace process in the region, British Prime Minister Gordon Brown said on Thursday.

"The deadlock has to be broken in some way," Brown told a committee of British lawmakers.

"I feel that if the Israelis were prepared to freeze settlement construction, there would be a response in the Arab world. And I think that is a way that you can see that movement forward could happen."

U.S. President Barack Obama wants a complete halt to settlement construction, a demand that has caused the most serious rift in U.S.-Israeli relations for a decade.

"All of us are putting pressure (on Israel), recognizing of course that Israel must have guarantees about its security, recognizing that a Palestinian state cannot be viable unless it is economically viable," Brown said.

Brown said he believed the United States could play a central role in trying to secure progress.

"I believe that the talks that President Obama has called in Washington are important and I think that has a potential for being the next step forward. I know Senator George Mitchell is doing a huge amount of work in the region and he has our support."

A spokesman for the British prime minister said Brown was referring to talks Obama has held with Israeli and Palestinian political leaders in recent months, rather than signaling a new U.S. initiative.

Obama hosted Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in separate meetings 10 days apart in late May. Mitchell is the U.S. Middle East envoy.

Source: Reuters

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