May 25, 2009 / 5:01 PM / 10 years ago

Abbas to press Obama on Israeli settlement issue

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas adjusts his glasses during a news conference with Canada's Foreign Minister Lawrence Cannon (not pictured) at the Lester B. Pearson building in Ottawa May 25, 2009. REUTERS/Chris Wattie

OTTAWA (Reuters) - Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said on Monday he would focus on Israel’s refusal to stop the building of settlements when he holds talks with U.S. President Barack Obama later this week.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu rebuffed U.S. calls on Sunday for a full settlement freeze in the occupied West Bank and said he would not accept limits on building of Jewish enclaves within Jerusalem.

“We are aware of Mr Netanyahu’s positions and I’m not going to engage on this subject through the media. This is one of the main issues I’ll take with me to Washington,” Abbas told reporters in Ottawa.

Abbas, who is due to meet Obama on Thursday, has ruled out restarting long-stalled peace talks until Israel commits itself to the creation of a Palestinian state and halts expansion of its settlements.

“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,” he said after meeting Canadian Foreign Minister Lawrence Cannon.

Abbas, speaking through an interpreter, said that regardless of what plan was used as a basis for such a deal, “the common denominator is to end the Israeli occupation that began in 1967 (and) to establish a Palestinian state that would live side by side in peace and security with the state of Israel”.

Half a million Jews live in settlement blocs and smaller outposts built in the West Bank and Arab East Jerusalem, all territory captured by Israel in the 1967 Middle East War.

Reporting by David Ljunggren; editing by Rob Wilson

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