Peace talks with Israel cannot resume without ending settlement construction and determining a framework to guide negotiations, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas said Wednesday in a statement published by Palestinian news agency WAFA, Al Ahram online reported.

"The Israeli government's refusal to stop settlement building and to determine clear references for the peace process were the reason that talks have stopped," Abbas said in the statement.

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Abbas had met with US Deputy of State James Steinberg and US Assistant Secretary of State for Near East Affairs Jeffrey Feltman and briefed them on the Hamas-Fatah unity agreement.

For the first time since taking office more than two years ago, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu on Monday evening publicly indicated that Israel might withdraw from areas of the West Bank not included in the major settlement blocs.

“We agree that we have to keep the settlement blocs. There is broad consensus that the settlement blocs must remain within the State of Israel,” Netanyahu said. Israel was willing to make compromises for peace, he said.

“These compromises are painful, because we are talking about parts of our homeland. It’s not a foreign country. It is the land of our forefathers and we have historical rights here, and not just security interests,” he said.

In a major diplomatic address to the Knesset, the prime minister laid out the diplomatic platform for peace with the Palestinians that he is likely to present in Washington in three separate events: a meeting on Friday with US President Barack Obama, a speech to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee on Monday, and an address to a joint session of Congress on Tuesday.

Washington sources, meanwhile, are anticipating that Obama will strike a nonconfrontational tone with Israel in a Middle East speech on Thursday, as well as in his meeting with Netanyahu.

Tovah Lazaroff, Khaled Abu Toameh, Hilary Leila Krieger contributed to this report.


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