Israel PM Ready to Launch Mideast Peace Talks

Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Wednesday he told U.S. President Barack Obama he was willing to launch peace talks with the Palestinians and Syria immediately.

"I said that I was ready to immediately begin peace talks with the Palestinians and with Syria," the right-wing premier told journalists at Ben Gurion airport upon his return from a three-day U.S. trip.

Netanyahu, who took office seven weeks ago, had appeared cool to the idea of reopening stalled talks with Damascus.

He has repeatedly voiced opposition to pulling out of the Golan Heights, territory Israel captured in a 1967 war which Syria wants returned as part of any peace deal.

"There was agreement that we must immediately launch peace talks," Netanyahu told reporters at Ben-Gurion Airport near Tel Aviv after talks in Washington on Monday with Obama.

He said he also made it clear to Obama that "any peace agreement must answer to Israel’s special security needs."
 
"We also agreed on the need to expand the peace process to Arab states," he said, adding that "Arab states should also make concrete concessions from the start."

"During the visit we reached understandings in some important fields.

"On Iran there was an understanding that the goal of U.S.-Israeli joint policy is to prevent Iran from acquiring military nuclear capability," Netanyahu said.

During his talks in Washington, Netanyahu constantly tried to shift emphasis away from the Palestinian issue toward the threat posed by Iran’s nuclear program. He and Obama publicly disagreed about the relative weight of the two issues.

(Agencies)

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