Middle East

Abbas says Palestinians ready for peace

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Media captionMahmoud Abbas: "Restoring credibility to the peace process requires compelling Israel to cease all settlements"

Palestinians are willing and ready to reach a comprehensive and just peace agreement with Israel, Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas has said.

However, in an address to the UN General Assembly, he said Israel must choose between peace and the continuation of settlements.

Israeli-Palestinian peace talks resumed in September after a 20-month hiatus.

But Palestinians say they will stop unless Israel extends a moratorium on settlement building in the West Bank.

The moratorium is due to expire on Sunday.

Israel has so far refused, saying settlement building is not an impediment to talks.

The BBC's Bridget Kendall in New York says Mr Abbas stopped short of publicly threatening to withdraw from talks with Israel if the moratorium is not extended.

It seems likely that a frantic search for a compromise is still going on behind the scenes, she adds.

'Dangerous problems'

Mr Abbas said the Palestinians would make every effort to reach a peace deal with Israel within one year.

He also affirmed Palestinian willingness to co-operate with US President Barack Obama's efforts to keep the peace process on track.

But he went on to list Palestinian grievances against the Israelis, including the blockade of the Gaza Strip and the imprisonment of thousands of Palestinians in Israeli jails.

He said Palestinians faced "dangerous problems that continue to push them into the corner of violence and conflict".

"This is the result of the mentality of expansion and domination, which still controls the ideology and policies of Israel, the occupying power," he said.

However, he said Palestinians were still ready to make peace.

"Our wounded hands are still able to carry the olive branch from the rubble of the trees that the occupation uproots every day," he said.

On Thursday, President Obama urged Israel to extend its moratorium, saying it had "made a difference on the ground, and improved the atmosphere for talks".

More than 430,000 Jewish settlers live in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.

The international community considers the settlements illegal, although Israel disputes this.