9 Oct 2010

US given month to rescue Middle East peace talks

11:49 am on 9 October 2010

Arab League ministers have given the United States one month to rescue deadlocked peace talks in the Middle East.

The ministers, meeting in Libya, endorsed a decision by Palestinian leaders to stay away unless Israel restores a ban on settlement building.

But the ministers said the US had to be given more time to break the impasse.

Direct talks, the first in almost two years, began in September but later stalled when Israel refused to extend the building freeze.

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas attended the meeting of Arab League foreign ministers in the city of Sirte.

Afterwards, Qatari Foreign Minister Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim bin Jabr al-Thani, who chaired the meeting, said:

"The committee endorses the decision of President Abbas to stop the talks."

He added: "It urges the American side to pursue its efforts to prepare adequate grounds and circumstances to resume the peace process and put this peace process back on the right track, including stopping settlements."

The BBC reports the foreign ministers are due to meet again in a month to review the situation.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has refused to extend a 10-month ban on settlement building in the West Bank which expired on 26 September.