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Israel satisfied despite Obama meeting

JERUSALEM, Sept 23 – Israel expressed satisfaction on Wednesday with the outcome of a three-way summit chaired by US President Barack Obama in New York which failed to produce a breakthrough in the stalled peace process.

"We are satisfied with the fact that there was a meeting," hard-line Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman told public radio from New York.

He spoke a day after Obama brought Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu together for the first time since the hawkish premier was sworn into office in late March.

But the meeting on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly failed to herald a re-launch of the Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations that were suspended in late December, with both sides instead agreeing to talk about restarting the talks.

Lieberman said the right-leaning Israeli government was happy with the outcome.

"The important thing is that the Israeli government respect its commitments (before the voters) and not cede to pressure," said the leader of the ultra-nationalist Yisrael Beitenu party.

Lieberman also warned that once restarted, any peace negotiations will be "long and complicated. One cannot wait for the results with a stopwatch in hand."

He said there is little chance of reaching a peace deal with the Palestinians in the coming years, saying it would be more prudent to achieve an acceptable status quo, saying that "there are dozens of conflicts without an agreement in the world."

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The Israeli prime minister was particularly pleased that Obama did not use the words "settlement freeze."

"I understand English, restraint and freeze are two different words," the mass-selling Yediot Aharonot quoted Netanyahu as saying.

Israel has long resisted US pressure to freeze settlement construction in the occupied West Bank, but Netanyahu’s government has suggested it might consider a temporary reduction in construction.

The Palestinians have demanded an Israeli settlement freeze in order to resume peace negotiations.

More than 500,000 Israel settlers live in the West Bank, including east Jerusalem.

At Tuesday’s meeting, Obama was visibly frustrated and curtly told Abbas and Netanyahu to stop stalling and open talks on a comprehensive deal to end their decades-old conflict.

The US president said he had asked both sides to send negotiators to Washington next week for more discussions on relaunching negotiations.

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