Netanyahu says he wants peace but not 'at any price'

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the weekly cabinet meeting on April 6, 2014.</p>

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the weekly cabinet meeting on April 6, 2014.

JERUSALEM — Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Sunday Israel was willing to continue US-brokered peace talks with the Palestinians but not "at any price."

Speaking at a weekly cabinet meeting, Netanyahu said Israel would respond with steps of its own if the Palestinians pressed ahead with unilateral actions toward statehood. He did not elaborate.

Attempts by US Secretary of State John Kerry to put peace talks back on track unraveled in the past week after the Palestinians signed 15 international conventions, mainly through the United Nations.

"By doing so, the Palestinians fundamentally violated the understandings that were reached through US intervention," Netanyahu said in his first public remarks since the crisis erupted.

President Mahmoud Abbas decided to sign the international conventions after Israel reneged on a pledge to free the last group of 104 Palestinian prisoners it agreed to release in the deal that led to the negotiations restarting nine months ago.

Netanyahu continued: "They will achieve a state only through direct negotiations and not through empty proclamations or unilateral moves, which will only push a peace accord farther away."

"Unilateral steps on their part will be answered with unilateral steps on our side. We are willing to continue negotiations, but we will not do so at any price."

The talks have struggled since they began in July, stalling over Palestinian opposition to Israel's demand that it be recognized as a Jewish state, and over Israeli settlements, internationally deemed illegal, in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem.

US envoy Martin Indyk was due to meet the chief Israeli and Palestinian negotiators on Sunday to try to salvage the process.

(Reporting by Jeffrey Heller; Editing by Ori Lewis and Sonya Hepinstall)