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Netanyahu on US visit to resist 'pressures'

Israel's prime minister pledges to resist pressures on Iran and peace with Palestinaians as he left for Washington.

Last updated: 02 Mar 2014 16:19
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Israel vows to resist 'pressures' on US visit [EPA]

Israel's prime minister has pledged to resist what he called pressures as he left for Washington on a visit expected to centre on peace talks with the Palestinians and the Iranian nuclear dispute.

"We will discuss the Iranian issue and the diplomatic process... In recent years the state of Israel has been under various pressures. We have rejected them...This is what has been and what will be,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's office quoted him as saying as he boarded his plane on Sunday.

We will discuss the Iranian issue and the diplomatic process... In recent years the state of Israel has been under various pressures.

Benjamin Netanyahu, Israeli Prime Minister

Although the Israeli premier would also like the talks with Obama on Monday to focus on Iran's nuclear ambitions, the White House appears to have a different agenda.

The New York Times, citing senior US officials, reported earlier this week that Obama will press Netanyahu on agreeing on a framework for a conclusive round of peace talks with the Palestinians that is being drafted by US Secretary of State John Kerry.

Direct peace talks between Israelis and Palestinians, which began last July with the goal of reaching a deal within nine months, have made no visible progress.

However, Kerry is now focused on getting the two sides to agree on a framework proposal which would extend the deadline until the year's end.

Although the document has not yet been made public, it is understood to be a non-binding proposal laying out guidelines for negotiating the central issues of the conflict, such as borders, security, Jerusalem, Israeli settlements and the fate of Palestinian refugees, according to AFP news agency.

The proposal, or its outline, is likely to be presented to Netanyahu next week and to Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas on March 17 when he meets Obama at the White House.

Netanyahu to attend AIPAC meeting in Washington

The aim is reportedly to secure an agreement before the end of March, when Israel is due to release a fourth and final batch of 26 veteran Palestinian security prisoners in line with commitments to Washington.

Israeli daily Haaretz, citing Israeli officials who met counterparts in Washington on Friday, said they "sensed pessimism regarding the possibility of reaching a framework agreement by the end of March."

While Kerry faces an uphill battle to win over a Palestinian leadership which has steadfastly refused any extension, following months of relentless Israeli settlement expansion, pundits said the prime minister was likely to agree, albeit with reservations.

"What both Kerry and Obama are hoping to get is some kind of approval from Netanyahu for the document," Eytan Gilboa, an expert on US-Israeli relations at Bar Ilan University, told AFP, saying the Israeli leader was likely to accept the framework rather than risk being blamed for the collapse of the talks.

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AFP
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