US and Israel agree to seek Middle East peace talks

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Mrs Clinton and Mr Netanyahu said their meeting had focused on negotiations

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu have agreed after hours of discussions to seek the resumption of direct Middle East peace talks.

The meeting focused on resuming negotiations to produce "a two-state solution", they said in a statement.

The two met in New York amid a row over Israeli plans to build new homes for Jewish settlers in East Jerusalem.

The Palestinians have left negotiations over the new settlement construction.

Mrs Clinton and Mr Netanyahu's meeting "focused on creating the conditions for the resumption of direct negotiations aimed at producing a two-state solution", their joint statement said.

"Their teams will work closely together in the coming days toward that end."

Mrs Clinton also assured Mr Netanyahu that Israel's security requirements would be "fully taken into account" in any future peace deal with the Palestinians.

But after more than seven hours of talks, the two gave no indication as to how they intended to break the impasse over Jewish settlement building.

New settlements

An Israeli moratorium on building new settlements expired at the end of September. On Monday, Israel announced plans to build 1,300 new homes for Jewish settlers in occupied in East Jerusalem.

The Palestinians have said they will not return to the negotiating table until new settlement construction halts.

The US has said the settlements are unhelpful and has urged the two sides to restart negotiations.

Negotiations, launched with what correspondents described as great pomp by President Barack Obama in early September, ran aground after just two rounds of talks.

Earlier on Thursday, speaking in Ramallah at an event to mark the anniversary of the death of Yasser Arafat, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas asked Israelis to choose peace over settlements.

"I now turn to the Israeli people. I hope they will hear us - those who believe in peace, if they exist," Mr Abbas said.

The US announced a new $150m (£93m) aid package on Wednesday for the Palestinian Authority.