A four-day trip by Joe Biden designed to kick-start faltering peace talks between the Israeli and Palestinian leaderships ended in failure last night despite a parting plea for negotiations to begin with no delay. The efforts of the US Vice-President to rekindle peace initiatives were dealt a seemingly fatal blow by an Israeli pledge, made during his visit, to build a new settlement in east Jerusalem, an area that has long been claimed by the Palestinians. The US has urged Israel to stop settlement building to help the two sides find some common ground but Israel claims the whole of Jerusalem as its own and says that the area should be excluded from the arrangement. Before he left Israel for Jordan last night Mr Biden urged the two sides to resume negotiations as soon as possible. However, Mahmoud Abbas, the leader of the Palestinian Authority, indicated that that was unlikely to happen. The Palestinian side is not ready to negotiate under the present circumstances, he told Amr Moussa, the Arab League Secretary-General, in Cairo. Sabri Saidam, a senior Palestinian Authority official, described the situation as stagnant, and added that the Palestinians are not ready to go to any negotiations unless Israel cancels this decision on the settlements. That call was echoed by the chief Palestinian negotiator, Saeb Erekat. Mr Biden had criticised the announcement by the Israeli Goverment that it planned to build 1,600 settler homes on contested land in Jerusalem, eliciting an apology from Binyamin Netanyahu, the Israeli Prime Minister, who insisted that the timing was coincidental. The Vice-President who was picked for his job in part for his foreign policy experience said that he appreciated Mr Netanyahus response to the row, which included a promise that a mechanism was being established to prevent the recurrence of that sort of event. The Vice-President added that Mr Netanyahu had assured him that the construction in east Jerusalem would probably take several years. Thats significant because it gives negotiators the time to resolve this as well as other outstanding issues, Mr Biden said. The most important thing is for these talks to go forward and go forward promptly and go forward in good faith. We cant delay, because when progress is postponed, extremists exploit our differences. Yet there was little doubt that Israels stance on the settlements had wounded Mr Bidens diplomatic effort. One senior Palestinian negotiator said that if Israel was prepared to embarrass the Americans it could not be serious about making concessions to the Palestinians. Mr Abbas had demanded a halt to settlement construction in the West Bank and east Jerusalem; areas that were captured by Israel in the 1967 war, before any resumption of the two-decade-old peace process. However, the Israeli Cabinet Secretary, Zvi Hauser, told Israel Radio: Jerusalem is the capital of Israel and construction there will be carried out like in Tel Aviv or any other city in every part of Jerusalem, according to the plans. There were numerous reports in the Israeli media that between 6,000 and 50,000 homes were being planned in east Jerusalem. Mr Hauser did not confirm or deny the numbers. He said: I repeat, construction in Jerusalem will continue in all its stages. (The Times)