Peace Process, Regional Concerns Lead Clinton Talks in Israel

Posted July 16th, 2012 at 4:50 pm (UTC-5)
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U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton says the situation in the Middle East and the Arab world dominated her talks with Israeli officials in Jerusalem Monday.

Clinton spoke to reporters after meeting with Israel's President Shimon Peres, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman and other top officials. Earlier in the day, she met with Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad.

The top U.S. diplomat said a negotiated solution is the only way to peace between the two sides and that the United States and the international community will continue to play a constructive role toward reaching a Mideast peace accord.

VOA correspondent Scott Stearns, who is traveling with Clinton, says a senior State Department official told reporters the Obama administration is committed to working toward an agreement.

“The senior State Department official said Secretary Clinton would have liked to be coming to Jerusalem on this trip to sign a peace accord between Israel and the Palestinian Authority, but the failure to reach that accord is testimony to the difficulty. It's a difficulty that's eluded many U.S. administrations.”

Clinton said the United States remains committed to Israel's safety and its future. She said Washington will work with Egypt's new civilian and military leaders to ensure that the country's 1979 peace accord with Israel is upheld. She traveled to Jerusalem from Egypt, where she discussed U.S. economic aid with President Mohamed Morsi and Field Marshall Mohamed Hussein Tantawi.

Developments in Syria and Iran also were high on the agenda. She said she discussed with Israeli officials what Israel can do for regional security, but added that other countries also have to contribute to the effort to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons.

Iran has been enriching uranium for what it calls a civilian energy and medical research program in defiance of several U.N. Security Council resolutions. Western powers want Iran to stop the enrichment, which they fear could be used to make nuclear weapons.

VOA's Stearns says the State Department calls this an important moment in the so-called P5+1 talks with Iran — the five permanent members of the Security Council plus Germany.

“Israel has said many times that it believes Iran is playing for time and has reserved the right to strike militarily to prevent Iran from developing a nuclear weapon. While President Barack Obama says no option is off the table when it comes to Iran, clearly the United States would like to see successful negotiations to resolve the international community's concerns about Iran's nuclear program, short of an Israeli military strike.”

Several rounds of talks this year have yielded no progress. Both the United States and European Union have enacted sanctions targeting Iran's oil exports.

European Union representatives plan to meet with Iranian officials July 24 to determine if there is enough common ground to continue the negotiations.

Clinton returns to Washington early Tuesday, ending her two-week tour of nine countries in Europe, Asia and the Middle East.