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Obama: "Positive movement" in Netanyahu speech
June 15, 2009 / 11:04 PM / 8 years ago

Obama: "Positive movement" in Netanyahu speech

(Adds details and background)

WASHINGTON, June 15 (Reuters) - U.S. President Barack Obama said on Monday he saw "positive movement" in a speech by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, in which he endorsed a two-state solution to the Israel-Palestinian conflict, and again urged Israel to halt settlement construction.

The Obama administration has sought to put a positive spin on Netanyahu’s speech on Sunday, in which he accepted the U.S.-backed principle of Palestinian statehood for the first time but attached a list of conditions that Palestinians have rejected.

"I thought that there was positive movement in the prime minister’s speech," Obama said.

Obama, after talks with Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, said he saw the possibility for restarting serious peace talks between Israel and the Palestinans.

But he insisted that Israel must meet its "road map" obligations to halt construction of Jewish settlements in the occupied West Bank and the Palestinians must put an end to violence against the Jewish state.

Netanyahu, who heads a new right-leaning government, on Sunday endorsed the establishment of a Palestinian state on condition that Israel be given international guarantees in advance that the new nation would be demilitarized.

While Netanyahu gave some ground after weeks of pressure from Obama over the issue of Palestinian statehood, Palestinians were disappointed by the Israeli leader’s demand that they recognize Israel as a Jewish state and for his failure to halt Jewish settlement expansion in the occupied West Bank.

Obama, who has promised a deep U.S. role in Middle East peace efforts, has called for a full settlement freeze, in line with the U.S.-sponsored "road map," but Netanyahu, who heads a new right-leaning government, wants building to continue in existing Jewish enclaves.

(Editing by Patricia Zengerle)

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