Israel PM Netanyahu 'orders brief freeze' on Jewish settlements

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Israel PM Netanyahu 'orders brief freeze' on Jewish settlements

Israel PM Netanyahu 'orders brief freeze' on Jewish settlements
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Israeli media reports say Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who is visiting China, has stalled new Jewish settlement building to help US-led peace efforts.

The Israeli leader has been visiting Shanghai before going to Beijing. It comes as China shows signs of becoming more proactive in Middle East diplomacy.

There has been no immediate comment from the Israeli government on the settlement issue.

Newspapers and Israeli Army Radio say Netanyahu has ordered a temporary freeze on tenders for new housing projects in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.

The daily paper Haaretz said the prime minister had promised to refrain until mid-June from publishing new tenders, in a move aimed at helping US Secretary of State John Kerry with his diplomatic campaign to revive peace talks.

Netanyahu’s visit coincides with a separate trip to China by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, who met President Xi Jinping in Beijing on Monday.

China has offered to help should the Israeli and Palestinian leaders wish to meet during their trips, but there are no plans for them to do so.

“We support Palestine and Israel resolving their differences and disputes through peaceful talks. China’s hosting of state visits by leaders of the two countries is part of our efforts to promote the peace process in the Middle East,” said Chinese foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Hunying.

Mahmoud Abbas told Chinese media he would ask Beijing leaders to use their influence with Israel to try to remove obstacles blocking the Palestinian economy.

He welcomed Netanyahu’s visit, saying it was good for the Chinese to talk to both sides.

The Chinese president said Beijing firmly supported what he called the “just cause” of the Palestinian people.