NEW YORK (AP) — Israel is "quite serious" about reaching a final peace deal with the Palestinians, and hopes to broaden the process to include other Arab countries, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Thursday.
Netanyahu spoke at a photo session before meeting privately in New York with Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton on prospects for overcoming an impasse in Israeli-Palestinian peace talks.
The Israeli leader said he and Clinton had been consulting by phone "quite intensively" over the last few weeks but had not met face-to-face since an opening round of Israeli-Palestinian negotiations in Jerusalem in September. The talks broke off shortly after that session, and the Palestinians have insisted they will not resume until Israel halts construction in Jewish settlements.
"We've been talking and will talk today about how to resume them to continue this process to get the historic agreement with peace and security between us and the Palestinians," Netanyahu said.
"I would like to add that we also hope to broaden it to many other Arab countries. So this is our common goal. We're quite serious about doing it and we want to get on with it."
Asked by a reporter whether peace talks would resume soon, Clinton replied, "That's what we're going to be discussing. We're both very committed to it."
On Wednesday, Clinton criticized Israel's proposal to build 1,300 apartments in east Jerusalem, which the Palestinians want to make the capital of a future independent state. Israel captured east Jerusalem in the 1967 Mideast war.
Construction of Jewish settlements in Israeli-occupied parts of the West Bank and east Jerusalem have thrown a wrench into peace talks, which had resumed in September after an interruption of nearly two years.
The United States is working with other countries to help the Palestinians set up a government for an independent state. On Wednesday, Clinton announced an additional $150 million in aid for the effort.
Associated Press writer Robert Burns in Washington contributed to this report.
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