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Published: Monday June 16, 2014 MYT 5:40:02 PM
Updated: Monday June 16, 2014 MYT 5:40:02 PM

Netanyahu speaks to Abbas about three abducted Israeli teens

JERUSALEM (Reuters) - Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas on Monday and said he expected him to help in efforts to find three Israeli teenagers abducted in the occupied West Bank.

"I expect you to help in the return of the kidnapped youngsters and in catching the abductors," a statement issued by the prime minister's office quoted Netanyahu as telling Abbas in a telephone call.

On Sunday, Gilad Erdan, a minister in Netanyahu's security cabinet, told Israeli television that Abbas's security forces were "willingly" helping search for the teenagers.

A statement on Monday by Abbas's office made no mention of the conversation with Netanyahu. But it said the "Palestinian presidency condemns ... the kidnapping of three Israeli boys and the series of Israeli violations" -- a reference to Israeli military raids and arrests since they disappeared on Thursday.

Both leaders have had infrequent telephone conversations in recent years, usually to convey greetings on Jewish and Muslim holidays.

Netanyahu broke off Israel's peace talks with Abbas in April after the Western-backed leader signed a unity deal with Israel's bitter enemy, the Hamas Islamist group the runs the Gaza Strip.

On Sunday, Netanyahu said Hamas members had kidnapped the three teenagers. Hamas dismissed what it called Netanyahu's "stupid comments" and suggested he was trying to draw the group into disclosing whether it was behind the abduction.

(Reporting by Jeffrey Heller, Editing by Crispian Balmer)

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