Original source:

New Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas on Sunday for the first time since taking office.

However, it was by no means a peace overture from Mr Netanyahu.

His office admitted that the conversation had been initiated by Mr Abbas, who called the Israeli leader to send him greetings for the Jewish Passover holiday.

Mr Netanyahu claimed that he seeks close co-operation to drive peace efforts forward.

But, while repeatedly saying that he wants peace with the Palestinians, the Israeli prime minister has refused to support the internationally backed idea of a Palestinian state alongside Israel since taking office as premier on March 31.

Talk of co-operation alone is unlikely to satisfy the Palestinian leadership, which wants Israel’s new government to make an unambiguous endorsement of an independent Palestinian state.

During his campaign, Mr Netanyahu had said that it was premature to talk of an independent Palestinian state.

Instead, he offered the Palestinians ‘economic peace.’ His Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman has dismissed international peace overtures, saying that the previous Israeli government’s endorsement of Palestinian statehood is not binding.

Mr Abbas has said that there is no reason to negotiate if Mr Netanyahu doesn’t support a two-state solution.

Chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat said on Saturday that, for peace talks to resume, Israel must declare its support for the eventual establishment of a Palestinian state.

Palestinian Foreign Minister Riad Malki said that Mr Abbas is expected to visit Washington at the end of the month to discuss the stalled peace talks with President Barack Obama.

This would be the first meeting between the two leaders since Mr Obama’s inauguration.