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(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
Israel's settlements are not an obstacle to achieving peace, Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman said Friday during his trip to the US, adding that Israel is ready to engage in peace talks with Palestinians without preconditions.
Visiting New York after his trip to Washington, DC where he maintained Israel's opposition to a settlement freeze, Lieberman downplayed the issue as a potential thorn in the relationship between Israel and the United States.
Lieberman also said that Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu was enjoying support from American Jews following his speech on June 14, in which he endorsed the possibility of a two-state solution with a demilitarized Palestinian state.
"We agree on many points," Lieberman told reporters at a news conference at the United Nations on Friday, referring to the United States and Israel.
He also emphasized that "settlements are not an obstacle to achieving peace."
"It's very clear that it's not the settlements. It's an excuse for those who try to avoid any peace talks," he said at the briefing, which followed his meeting with UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon.
Lieberman said they had discussed a range of issues, from the relationship between the Israel and the United Nations to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
They also touched on the situation in Iran and the "crazy nuclear arms race," according to Lieberman, which he described as a threat not only to Israel, but also to the entire world.
Lieberman stated that Israel is ready for peace talks with Palestinians - and other countries in the region - and insisted that Israel did not have preconditions for such dialogue. "We have our position, we don't have any preconditions," he said, emphasizing that both Israelis and Palestinians had a right to their positions.
"Each side will try to convince the other side," he said.
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