US praises Abbas's 'restraint'

2010-09-27 22:44

Washington - The United States on Monday praised the "restraint" shown by Palestinian leader Mahmud Abbas, who did not immediately quit the Middle East peace talks after Israel ended its settlement freeze.

State Department spokesperson Philip Crowley also voiced US disappointment that Israel had not extended the 10-month moratorium on new settler homes in the West Bank, which formally ended at 22:00 GMT on Sunday.

The Palestinian president had repeatedly warned he would turn his back on the US-backed negotiations with Israel should the Jewish state continue building on occupied Palestinian land.

But Abbas told reporters in Paris on Monday he would not rush to respond to Israel's failure to extend the freeze, but would first consult Palestinian and Arab leaders.

"In our discussions with both sides over the weekend, we encouraged restraint whenever a decision was made on the Israeli side," Crowley told reporters.

"The Palestinian response so far reflects the restraint... The restraint at this point is appreciated."

He said US envoy to the Middle East George Mitchell was heading to the region late on Monday, adding: "We'll be in touch with the Israelis this week."

"We are disappointed, but remain focused on our long term objectives," Crowley said. "One way or the other the parties have to find a way to continue direct negotiations.

"We recognise that given the decision yesterday we still have a dilemma to resolve."