Thursday, June 11, 2009

Obama envoy says Palestinian statehood only option

Obama envoy says Palestinian statehood only option
By Mohammed Assadi
RAMALLAH, West Bank (Reuters) - U.S. envoy George Mitchell assured the Palestinians on Wednesday of Washington's commitment to a state of their own, calling its establishment the only viable solution to their conflict with Israel.
Mitchell, speaking after talks with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, urged both sides to meet their obligations under a 2003 peace "road map" that commits Israel to halting settlement expansion and Palestinians to reining in militants.
U.S. President Barack Obama had made it clear "the only viable resolution to this conflict is for the aspirations of both sides to be met through two states," Mitchell said.
His comments highlighted a rare rift in U.S.-Israeli relations. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has not publicly endorsed Palestinian statehood and has said construction will continue in existing settlements in the occupied West Bank.
Reiterating remarks he made in talks with Israeli leaders on Tuesday, Mitchell said in the West Bank city of Ramallah that Washington was seeking "prompt resumption and early conclusion" of Israeli-Palestinian peace talks.
"We are now engaged in serious discussions with Israelis, Palestinians and other regional partners to support this effort," he added, before continuing the latest leg of his mission on a tour taking him to Jordan, Lebanon, Syria and Egypt.
Speaking later after meeting Israeli opposition leader Tzipi Livni, Mitchell said Washington sought "a comprehensive regional peace which not only involves Israel and the Palestinians, but Syrians, the Lebanese and all the surrounding countries."
Obama continued to press the issue on Wednesday from Washington. Ahead of Mitchell's scheduled visit to Amman on Thursday, Obama called Jordan's King Abdullah to discuss his recent trip to Riyadh and Cairo, where he issued his call for a new U.S. relationship with the Muslim world.
"The president reiterated his commitment to work hard to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict through a two-state solution, as he underscored in his speech in Cairo," the White House said in a statement on Obama's call to Abdullah.
"They discussed ways of ensuring that all parties fulfill their obligations and responsibilities to ensure that negotiations toward a two-state solution have the best chance to succeed," the statement said.
SETTLEMENT FREEZE
Abbas, after his talks with Mitchell, made no comment to reporters. The Palestinian leader has said talks with Israel will be useless unless Netanyahu accepts a two-state solution and freezes settlements.
Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat said in a statement the United States had "made clear its intention to reinvigorate Middle East peace talks, as well as its expectation that both parties implement their obligations under the road map."
He said Israel's failure to fulfill its obligations under existing agreements had undermined the credibility of the peace process.
Obama's emphasis on meeting obligations was "an important litmus test of fairness and balance," Erekat said. Continued...
Source: Reuters

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