Clinton arrives in Israel to revive peace talks

Jerusalem, November 01: US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton arrived in Israel Saturday to meet with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in efforts to revive peace talks between Israelis and Palestinians.

Clinton arrived in Jerusalem on Saturday night and met with Israeli Defence Minister Ehud Barak and Foreign Affairs Minister Avigdor Lieberman, before meeting with Netanyahu.

In a joint press conference in Jerusalem with Netanyahu, Clinton played down conditions for the talks, and instead emphasized along with Netanyahu the need to “get on the path” to talks.

The visit to Israel came after a meeting by Clinton earlier Saturday with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in Abu Dhabi.

The US Secretary of State proposed that Abbas resume negotiations with Israel pending a deal reached between the US and Israel over the issue of Jewish settlements in the West Bank.

Abbas rejected talks with Israel unless there was a complete freeze of construction within Jewish settlements in the West Bank including Jerusalem.

“Halting settlement activities, including what Israel terms as the natural growth within settlements is essential to restarting any peace negotiations,” Palestinian chief negotiator Saeb Erekat said in a statement released after the meeting.

Ahead of Clinton’s rival to Jerusalem, Defense Minister Ehud Barak urged US and Palestinians to “make an effort to start negotiations.”

“It’s essential that all the sides make an effort to start negotiations; this is a unique opportunity,” Barak said adding that “a death end in the diplomatic process will only serve Hamas and the other extremist elements in the region.”

The government of Benjamin Netanyahu continues to reject a complete freeze of the settlements. Like previous Israeli governments, he has also refused to negotiate the situation in east Jerusalem.