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Palestinians can talk peace if settlements halt

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas responds to John Kerry’s speech included sharp criticism of Israeli settlement

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Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas said Wednesday he was ready to resume peace efforts with Israel if it stopped settlement building, reacting to a major speech by US Secretary of State John Kerry.

“The minute the Israeli government agrees to cease all settlement activities... and agrees to implement the signed agreements on the basis of mutual reciprocity, the Palestinian leadership stands ready to resume permanent status negotiations on the basis of international law and relevant international legality resolutions... under a specified timeframe,” he said in a statement.

Also read: Kerry touts 11th-hour vision of Middle East peace

Kerry’s speech included sharp criticism of Israeli settlement building and came after last week’s UN Security Council resolution calling for an end to such activity. The United States abstained at the Security Council, allowing the resolution to pass 14-0.

Washington and others say continued settlement building is steadily eroding the possibility of a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu condemned Kerry’s speech as biased against Israel, and accused the outgoing secretary of state of paying only “lip service” to Palestinian violence.