United States

Don't let chance for peace slip away, Obama tells Mideast leaders

US President Barack Obama (C) with Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu (L) and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas (R)
US President Barack Obama (C) with Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu (L) and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas (R) AFP / Tim Sloan

US President Barack Obama calls on Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to seize the opportunity for peace despite West Bank violence. On Wednesday, two Israelis were wounded in a shooting as their car came under fire near the city of Ramallah.

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On Thursday, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is hosting directs talks between Palestinian and Israeli leaders on major sticking points of negotiations such as the status of Jerusalem, security, the borders of a Palestinian state and the right of return for Palestinian refugees.

Dossier: Gaza 2009

The negotiations come a day after a meeting with the US president and a joint press conference meant to build trust between Israeli and Palestinian leaders, the White House says.

In a speech at the White House, US President Barack Obama called on both sides not to
let slip a fleeting opportunity for peace. "This moment of opportunity may not soon come again," he said.

Netanyahu, traditionally a hawkish politician, called Abbas his “partner in peace” and urged the leader to join him in forging a “historic compromise” to end decades of conflicts.

The Israeli leader sought to show he would not be influenced by the renewed violence in the West Bank.

On Wednesday, one day after a deadly attack near a West Bank Jewish settlement, two Israelis were wounded in a shooting near the Palestinian town of Ramallah. Israeli army radio says one of the victims was seriously wounded.

Early on Thursday morning, the armed wing of Hamas claimed responsibility for the attack, as well as the previous shooting. Many commentators have interpreted the attacks as an attempt to derail peace talks in Washington.

Speaking in Washington, Abbas joined Netanyahu in calling for an end to the bloodshed in the West Bank.

"Mr Netanyahu... what happened yesterday and what is happening today is also condemned," said Abbas in remarks addressed directly to the Israeli leader.

Abbas renewed demands for a freeze of Jewish settlements, and an end to all Israeli closures and blockades, preventing freedom of movement for Palestinians.

Netanyahu, Abbas as well as Jordan's King Abdullah II and Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak later took part in a White House dinner hosted by Obama, who was also meeting the regional power-brokers for one-to-one sessions.

 

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