Obama, Merkel call for Middle East talks to go on

US President Barack Obama and German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Friday urged Israelis and Palestinians to do all they can to sustain direct peace talks, at a critical moment in the dialogue.

Obama spoke by Merkel by telephone from New York, a day after issuing a passionate call in the United Nations General Assembly for the world to back his peace drive.

“The chancellor provided an update on her engagement in support of the president’s efforts to advance peace in the Middle East,” the White House said in a statement.

“The two leaders emphasized their support for the direct talks between Israel and the Palestinians and agreed that all sides should make every possible effort to sustain the talks.

“The president and the chancellor agreed that Israel should extend its moratorium on settlement activity and that the negotiations should press on until completed, and they agreed to stay in close touch at this critical juncture of the process.

“They also discussed Afghanistan and agreed to consult further on these and other global issues on our shared agenda.”

The Obama administration was making intense efforts late Friday to safeguard the dialogue, seeking to get Israel to extend a moratorium on settlement building due to expire next week and to stop the Palestinians walking out of the talks.