WASHINGTON – US President Barack Obama's
will not be "focused on specific Middle East
peace process proposals," White House spokesman Jay Carney said Wednesday.
Meanwhile, US Vice President Joe Biden said that the US will try to promote peace between Israel and the Palestinians during John Kerry's term as secretary of state. Kerry, who was sworn into office by Biden, did not mention Israel in his speech but vowed that that US will not retreat from the world stage due to budget constraints or the complexity of global challenges.
Carney added that newly-appointed Secretary of State John Kerry
will attempt to find ways to restart negotiations between Israel
and the Palestinians during his February visit but that the White House does not want to foster false hopes regarding the president's visit.
The US administration stressed the importance of strengthening ties on the Iranian and Syrian issues.
"I'm sure that any time the president and prime minister have a discussion and certainly any time the president has a discussion with leaders of the Palestinian Authority, that those issues are raised. But that is not the purpose of this visit," Carney said.
Obama. Doesn't want to foster false hopes (Photo: AFP)
Asked whether Obama will use the visit to put pressure Israel on the settlements issue, Carney replied: "We expect that Iran
will be topics of conversation.
"But I'm sure a variety of issues will be discussed, as they always are when the president meets with Prime Minister Netanyahu and other Israeli leaders. And that's certainly the case when he meets with Palestinian Authority officials."
Earlier on Wednesday, US diplomatic sources said that Washington is determined to renew peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians. One source said that while the personal relations between Obama and Netanyahu may be strained, relations between the two nations cannot be based on the personal relationship between its two leaders.
Netanyahu and Obama in Washington (Photo: Amos Ben-Gershom, GPO)
According to the sources, Obama's visit was meant to make clear that the US has no intention of neglecting the peace process and that it intends to renew its involvement in the near future.
Obama's intent to visit Israel this spring caught Europe by surprise. "We were surprised by the US announcement that President Obama will visit Israel so soon," a top European diplomat told Ynet on Wednesday.
The senior official said that many in Europe have come to believe that Obama has "washed his hands" of the Middle East peace process, adding that European nations have put great effort into persuading the US to become involved again.
He revealed that leading EU nations have spent the past month trying to persuade the US administration to become reengaged in the Israeli-Palestinian issue.
The European diplomat noted that the EU plans to support US efforts to restart peace talks and draft a line of proposals that would "make it easier for Israel to return to the negotiating table."
European nations are currently busy trying to come up with incentives to encourage the resumption of peace talks including the possibility of providing Israel with security guarantees, alongside other confidence building measures.
The senior official rejected recent reports suggesting that the EU is considering introducing a visa requirement for Israelis wishing to enter Europe as punishment for the political deadlock. "We have no intention of acting against Israel, we only wish to present incentives and guarantees that will enable negotiations. After all, Israel is a true friend of Europe's and we have no intention of sanctioning it or harming our relations."
Commenting on the recent Israeli elections, the European official expressed hope that Yesh Atid's success would lead to a change of attitude. Nevertheless he noted he was not sure how committed Yair Lapid was to the peace process.
"He presented many commitments to the Israeli public and it is unclear how dear the peace process is to him," he said. He noted that Lapid will likely be invited to Europe to encourage him to promote the resumption of peace talks.
Attila Somfalvi contributed to this report
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