JERUSALEM (AFP) - Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is ready partially to freeze West Bank settlement building if it will bring Palestinians back to direct talks, an Israeli newspaper reported on Friday. But the Palestinians said they were unaware of any such offer, and said that anything short of a full freeze would not be acceptable. According to Haaretz, Netanyahu's offer was made on Wednesday during talks with Colombian Foreign Minister Maria Angela Holguin a day after she had met Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas in Ramallah. A senior official quoted by the paper said Netanyahu had told her he would be prepared to freeze all government-sponsored construction and building on state land "if it would return Abbas to the negotiating table." But he refused to contemplate a freeze on private settlement activity in a gesture which the official said would "test" whether or not Abbas was serious about returning to direct negotiations. "Netanyahu said he was ready to test Abbas by making the gesture regarding settlements," he said, indicating the offer had been relayed to Abbas on Wednesday. Peace Now, the Israeli settlement watchdog, criticised the distinction between public and private settlement activity. It pointed to government statistics that showed 84 percent of settlement construction in 2011 was private while only 16 percent was state sponsored. "The truth is that even if there was a full stop of the government construction in settlements, still the settlers can build tens of thousands of units in the settlements that can destroy the possibility for peace and two state solution," a group statement said. Netanyahu's spokesman Mark Regev refused to confirm or deny the offer of a partial freeze, saying only that the premier's position had not changed and that he was "ready for direct peace talks with the Palestinian Authority without any preconditions." But Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erakat said they had received no such proposal and insisted that only a full halt to settlement, including in annexed east Jerusalem, would suffice.