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Peace talks to be focus of Israeli prime minister's U.S. trip

By the CNN Wire Staff
Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will meet with President Obama on Tuesday.
Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will meet with President Obama on Tuesday.
  • Prime minister will visit United States this week
  • Netanyahu meets with Obama Tuesday
  • Moving toward direct talks with Palestinians will be focus on U.S. trip
  • Obama has also discussed direct talks with Abbas

(CNN) -- Moving toward direct peace talks with Palestinians will be a focus of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's trip to the United States this week, the prime minister told Israeli Cabinet officials Sunday.

"We are ten minutes apart. Ramallah almost touches Jerusalem," Netanyahu said, according to a copy of remarks released by his office. "I have been ready to meet with (Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas) since this government's first day in office. Whoever desires peace will hold direct peace talks. I hope that this will be one of the results of my trip to Washington."

Netanyahu said he will discuss the issue in a meeting with U.S. President Barack Obama on Tuesday.

Currently Israelis and Palestinians are negotiating via "proximity" talks, in which U.S. officials serve as a go-between.

Last week, the White House also said Tuesday's meeting would focus on how to move proximity talks to direct talks, and on the recent "liberalization" of Israel's policy on commercial traffic into Gaza.

It will be the fifth meeting between Obama and Netanyahu since the prime minister took office last spring.

Moving toward direct talks was also a topic when Obama met with Abbas on June 9.

"We agreed that, should a progress be achieved, then we would move on to direct talks," Abbas said after the meeting.