September 1, 2009 / 2:25 AM / 9 years ago

Obama may helm Netanyahu, Abbas meeting - Peres

WASHINGTON, Aug 31 (Reuters) - U.S. President Barack Obama may moderate a meeting between the leaders of Israel and the Palestinian Authority at the United Nations next month in talks that could lead to the resumption of the peace process, Israeli President Shimon Peres said on Monday.

Plans are for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to meet during the U.N. General Assembly to discuss the future of stalled Middle East peace negotiations, Peres said in a Fox News interview.

"I think they will meet by the end of September. President Obama will chair it, and I think that at least there is a chance that they will decide they are going to reopen negotiations," Peres said, adding Hamas would not be part of the discussion.

Hamas, a Palestinian Islamist group, controls Gaza and is formally committed to destroying Israel.

A White House spokesman did not immediately respond to a call seeking comment.

Abbas has ruled out a resumption of peace talks with Israel until Netanyahu commits to a full settlement freeze, including natural growth, as called for under a 2003, U.S.-backed peace "road map."

Peres said a deal was possible but that the issue was still unresolved, as he urged all sides to broaden the scope of Middle East peace talks beyond settlements.

"On that particular issue, there is not yet an agreement. Negotiations are going on. I do believe there is a solution for it as well," Peres said. "It’s very hard to convince your own people to make so many concessions, to take so many risks."

"But this is the task of a leader to move ahead," he said, adding Netanyahu was aware of what needed to be done.

"He knows there is no chance, no escape, no alternative to go ahead and make peace. He knows he must do it ... it’s just not a simple proposition," Peres said.

Obama, who has called on Israel to freeze settlement construction, said earlier this month his administration was seeing movement in the right direction on the Israeli settlements issue.

In lieu of a full settlement freeze, Netanyahu has said he would not build additional enclaves in the territory, captured by Israel in a 1967 war, that Palestinians seek for a state. (Writing by JoAnne Allen; Editing by Peter Cooney)

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