August 4, 2009 / 1:34 PM / 10 years ago

Israel's Barak says U.S. to present peace plan soon

Israel's Defence Minister Ehud Barak addresses during a news conference at the 48th Paris Air Show at the Le Bourget airport near Paris, June 15, 2009. REUTERS/Pascal Rossignol

JERUSALEM (Reuters) - Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak said on Tuesday the United States would present a Middle East peace plan within weeks and Israel should accept it.

“In the coming weeks, their plan will be formulated and presented to the parties,” Barak said, according to a spokesman for Israel’s parliament who briefed reporters on the defense chief’s remarks to its Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee.

“I believe that Israel must take the lead in accepting the plan,” Barak was quoted as saying.

Barak has held a series of meetings with U.S. President Barack Obama’s Middle East envoy, George Mitchell, on Washington’s demand for a Jewish settlement freeze that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has been resisting.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has demanded a halt to settlement activity, as stipulated by a U.S.-backed 2003 peace “road map,” before negotiations suspended since Israel’s invasion of the Gaza Strip last December can resume.

Israeli media have speculated the Obama administration would put forward new peace proposals to try to break the stalemate reached in talks Israel and the Palestinians launched at a conference in Annapolis, Maryland in November 2007.

Asked at a daily briefing in Washington on Monday when a peace plan might be announced by Mitchell, U.S. State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley said: “I think it will be in a matter of weeks.”

He gave no specifics.

Writing by Jeffrey Heller, Editing by Samia Nakhoul

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