Netanyahu urges Abbas to stay at the 'negotiating table'

Following PA statements that negotiations would be abandoned if Israeli settlement construction continues, Barak says that compromise which would ensure continued peace process can be reached within a week.

Netanyahu Abbas 311 AP (photo credit: Associated Press)
Netanyahu Abbas 311 AP
(photo credit: Associated Press)
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu on Saturday evening called on Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas to remain in peace talks despite the lack of a settlement construction moratorium extension.
"The way to achieve a historic peace agreement between our two peoples is to sit around the negotiating table seriously and continuously, and not leave, because this is the place to resolve the differences between us," the prime minister said.
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Earlier in the evening, Defense Minister Ehud Barak urged the Palestinian leadership and all those involved in Israeli-Palestinian peace talks to take responsibility and not to allow negotiations between the sides to come to an end.
"We all must act with discretion and perseverance in order to overcome the obstacles before us and continue negotiations in order to get results," Barak said in an official statement.  Barak added that, through intensive talks, the sides could find a compromise within a week that would ensure continued negotiations.
Both statements came following comments made earlier on Saturday, when the PLO Executive Committee attempted to persuade Palestinian  Authority President Mahmoud Abbas not to continue with direct negotiations because of Israel's refusal to continue the building freeze.
Nabil Abu Rudaineh, a Palestinian presidential spokesperson, said that the talks would not continue as long as Israel continues to build on land that is expected to one day become a Palestinian state.
Abbas met with dozens of senior Palestinians in Ramallah and sought their backing for his refusal to keep negotiating with Israel without a slowdown in West Bank settlement construction.
The Palestinian Authority president briefed the group about US envoy George Mitchell's latest unsuccessful attempts to narrow the gaps.
"President Abbas' position is clear: no negotiations under the shadow of settlement construction," Abu Rudaineh said before the meeting. However, he said contacts with the US would continue. 
Mitchell, who spent four days this week shuttling between Abbas and Netanyahu, is now trying to enlist the help of Arab leaders, meeting with Qatari leaders on Saturday with plans to continue to Jordan on Sunday after a brief stop in Cairo.
In remarks published Friday, Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit issued surprising criticism of the Palestinian position of making talks contingent on the settlement building restrictions, saying the sides should concentrate on drawing the borders of a Palestinian state.
In the West Bank, PLO and Fatah officials have overwhelmingly spoken out against continued negotiations.
Hanan Ashrawi, a member of the PLO Executive Committee, said the international community's failure to get Israel to halt settlement expansion does not bode well for the talks, where much more explosive issues will be on the table, such as the partition of Jerusalem. Ashrawi said there's a limit to Palestinian flexibility.