Netanyahu downplays dispute with Obama over settlements

June 25th, 2009 - 12:55 am ICT by IANS  

Barack Obama Paris, June 24 (DPA) Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu Wednesday downplayed growing tensions with US President Barack Obama over Israeli settlements, saying it was just a spat between friends.
“We have an unbreakable bond of friendship with the US,” Netanyahu said in Paris after talks with French President Nicolas Sarkozy. “Even among best friends there can be differences.”

The Israeli prime minister arrived in Paris after his scheduled Thursday meeting in Paris with Obama’s Middle East special envoy George Mitchell was cancelled at the last minute, apparently over unresolved questions related to Israel’s settlement construction.

As a sign of how relations between Jerusalem and Washington are fraying, both sides claimed they called off the meeting.

Netanyahu again said that Israel had no intention “of expropriating additional land” for settlements, but that it had a right to build within existing settlements.

“All we want is for (the settlers) to have a normal life,” he told reporters.

The US is demanding a total freeze on all Israeli settlement activity in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.

These were hardly ideal circumstances for Netanyahu’s first official encounter with Sarkozy, who fully supports Obama’s position toward Israel and has himself called for a total end to settlement construction.

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