Washington – President Barack Obama said Friday he had urged Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to extend a partial freeze on Israeli settlement construction in the West Bank as long as peace talks with the Palestinians “are moving in a constructive way.”
In remarks at a White House news conference, Obama argued that the freeze has been “significant” in reducing the Israeli construction, which the Palestinians oppose and consider a threat to what they could gain from a peace deal. He didn’t report Netanyahu’s response.
The freeze, set to expire Sept. 26, is the foremost immediate threat to the new round of peace talks that began this month. Netanyahu has opposed an extension, and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas has insisted he will break off talks if construction is fully resumed.
The second round of talks is scheduled to begin next week in Egypt, with Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton taking part.
N. Korea extends offer for reunions
Seoul, South Korea – North Korea has offered South Korea a new round of reunions for families separated by the Korean War, state media said today.
Reunions last happened in September and October 2009, and their potential renewal could signal an easing of tensions after the deadly sinking of a South Korean warship in March.
The North proposed that the two Koreas’ Red Cross societies meet soon to discuss the gatherings. It proposed the reunions take place at the North’s scenic Diamond Mountain on the Chuseok autumn harvest holiday.
Chuseok, which falls on Sept. 22 this year, is a major holiday for both Koreas, equivalent to Thanksgiving in the United States.