Abbas tells Obama no talks without freeze: Presidency

RAMALLAH, Palestinian Territories (AFP) - Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas on Thursday told US President Barack Obama there could be no talks with Israel without a freeze on settlement construction.

"A resumption of negotiations is not possible without an Israeli settlement freeze in the West Bank and east Jerusalem," Abbas's political adviser Nimr Hammad quoted him as telling Obama during a two-and-a-half-hour meeting.

"Abbas, during his meeting with Obama, was very clear, telling him that settlement construction was an obstacle on the path to peace and to the resumption of talks, and that this was not possible without a settlement freeze," Hammad said.

Obama met Abbas in Ramallah in the West Bank on Thursday as part of a visit to Israel and the Palestinian territories.

The US president condemned Israel's ongoing settlement building as unhelpful to the pursuit of peace.

"We do not consider continued settlement activity to be constructive, to be appropriate, to be something that can advance the cause of peace," he said in a joint news conference with Abbas.

But Obama dodged a question about pushing for a freeze on settlement construction, simply saying: if each party "is constantly negotiating about what's required to get into talks in the first place, then we're never going to get to the broader issue, which is how do you eventually structure a state of Palestine."

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