JERUSALEM (Reuters) - Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu heads Monday for talks in Europe expected to focus on U.S.-backed efforts to persuade Israel to halt Jewish settlement building in occupied territory.
Following are the list of issues expected to come up in Netanyahu’s planned talks in London with British Prime Minister Gordon Brown on Tuesday, and U.S. peace envoy George Mitchell on Wednesday, followed by a meeting with German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Thursday:
*Brown, Merkel and Mitchell will seek to bridge a gap with Israel over the terms of a possible settlement freeze. Israel seems ready to accept a six-month halt to construction, while Washington has sought at least a two-year hiatus, so that peace talks stalled since December may resume between Israel and the Palestinians for a two-state solution of their conflict.
*Netanyahu will express renewed interest in resuming peace talks with Palestinians based on what he calls a three-track approach that calls for greater efforts to crack down on Palestinian militants, improved economic development Israel says it has facilitated by removing roadblocks in the West Bank in recent months, in addition to negotiations for a two-state solution in which any Palestinian state would be demilitarised.
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has insisted any talks resume only once Israel agrees to a freeze in settlement building which Palestinians see as robbing them of land they seek for a state.
*Netanyahu will press Europe for stiffer economic and political sanctions aimed at pressing Iran to halting its nuclear programme. Western countries see the programme as destined to produce atomic weapons that Israel sees as a threat after Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s threats in the past to wipe the Jewish state off the map. Tehran says it is seeking nuclear power solely for the purpose or energy production.
*Netanyahu will press for improved trade and political ties with the European Union. The EU put talks on an upgrade of ties with Israel on hold in January after a devastating Israeli offensive in the Gaza Strip it said it launched to halt rocket fire at Israel, and in which more than 1,400 Palestinians and 13 Israelis were killed.
The EU has also said in the past it would condition improving ties with Israel on progress being made towards peace with the Palestinians.
Writing by Allyn Fisher-Ilan; Editing by Richard Williams