Abbas: Settlements block Mideast peace deal

? Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said Saturday there will be no peace deal with Israel unless the Jewish state stops settlement construction in areas the Palestinians claim for their future state.

“Israel must choose between peace and the continuation of settlements,” Abbas said in his address to the U.N. General Assembly’s annual ministerial meeting.

Direct peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians stalled only three weeks after starting in Washington in early September over the impending end of a 10-month freeze on new Israeli settlement construction on land claimed by the Palestinians.

Abbas reaffirmed the Palestinian commitment to try to reach a peace deal.

“We have decided to enter into final status negotiations. We will continue to exert every effort to reach an agreement for Palestinian-Israeli peace within one year in accordance with resolutions of international legitimacy … and the vision of the two-state solution,” Abbas told ministers and diplomats.

But with today’s deadline looming for Israel to resume the contested building, the Palestinians are waiting for U.S. efforts to break the impasse.

President Barack Obama has increasingly placed efforts to resolve the conflict at the center of his foreign policy, but both Israeli and Palestinian officials said Saturday a deal was far from certain.

State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley said U.S. special Mideast peace envoy George Mitchell met with Abbas for about half an hour on Saturday.

“We remain engaged with both sides,” he said.

Earlier, Crowley said, “We are doing everything we can to keep the parties in direct talks.”