FM tells British counterpart William Hague Palestinians using West Bank construction issue as 'excuse' to thwart direct talks. 'Israel has made numerous gestures over the past year; now it's their turn,' he says
Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman has rejected the possibility that Israel would extend the settlement construction moratorium, which is due to expire September 26.
During a phone conversation with British counterpart William Hague over the weekend, Lieberman said, "The Palestinians wasted nine months, and even on the tenth month they didn’t join the talks out of a genuine intent to reach an agreement, but because they were coerced."
The foreign minister claimed the West Bank construction freeze was merely an "excuse" for the Palestinians to thwart the talks, adding that it was now the Palestinian Authority's turn to prove its seriousness with regards to the peace talks.
"Those who look for excuses will find them even if the freeze is extended," said Lieberman.
"Israel has made numerous gestures over the past year, and now it's the Palestinians' turn. Israel will gladly continue negotiating without preconditions, including those related to the moratorium."
Lieberman told Hague that the international community must support the negotiations by giving Israel incentives and refrain from increasing pressure on the Jewish state to make concessions.
The two agreed that Hague will visit Israel in December.
During the conversation, Lieberman urged the British government to work in cooperation with the European Union to prevent more flotillas from sailing to Gaza in violation of Israel's blockade on the Hamas-ruled coastal enclave.
"These flotillas are sheer provocation; they are not meant to help Gaza, but to ignite the region," said Lieberman, who is set to leave for Prague on Sunday for talks with senior Czech officials.
The Obama administration has called on Israel to extend the moratorium to allow the direct peace negotiations to progress.
According toLikud party officials, Prime MinisterBenjamin Netanyahu'sannouncement that settlement construction would resume partially was meant to prevent a diplomatic crisis with the US and prevent the Palestinians from quitting the negotiations.
Ronen Medzini, Attila Somfalvi contributed to the report