Palestinian and Israeli leaders begin direct talks in Washington today in what US President Barack Obama has described as “a moment of opportunity that may not soon come again”.
Obama intends to forge a Middle East peace agreement within a year, approaching the talks between Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Jordan’s King Abdullah II with tempered optimism.
The UK’s Guardian newspaper reported the US President as saying the task would be difficult after so many failed efforts, and that passions and mistrust ran deep. But he said that the occupation and accompanying conflict were unsustainable.
“The purpose of the talks is clear. These will be direct negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians,” said Obama, These negotiations are intended to resolve all final status issues. The goal is a settlement negotiated between the parties that ends the occupation which began in 1967, and results in the emergence of an independent democratic and viable Palestinian state living side by side in peace and security with a Jewish state of Israel and its other neighbours,” he said. “We are under no illusions. Passions run deep. Each side has legitimate and enduring interests. Years of mistrust will not disappear overnight …
“After all, there’s a reason that the two state solution has eluded previous generations. This is extraordinarily complex and extraordinarily difficult. But we know that the status quo is unsustainable.”