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Clinton greets Peres
Photo: Ohad Zoigenberg
Clinton: Leaders getting down to business
US secretary of state tells President Peres she believes Israeli, Palestinian leaders 'have begun to grapple with core issues that can only be resolved through face to face negotiations', while Al-Hayat reports Israel refusing to extend settlement freeze

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton met with President Shimon Peres Wednesday, saying that Israeli and Palestinian leaders were "getting down to business".

 

"They are getting down to business. They have begun to grapple with the core issues that can only be resolved through face to face negotiations," she said.

 

Speaking just a day after another round of direct talks in Sharm el-Sheikh, Clinton added that "we are all praying" for a result that would benefit everyone.

 

"I can say that both sides understand the ramifications and the results of the peace process," she said.

 

Clinton appeared happy to see Peres, and greeted him with a warm hug. She told him she expected to hear his thoughts on the peace process, as he had devoted his life to Israel's future and security.

 

Clinton added that she believed achieving peace was Israel's top priority.

 

She described Netanyahu and Abbas as sincere and serious, urging them to seize "a moment of opportunity" for peace because the status quo was "unsustainable."

 

"Thankfully, we now have with Prime Minister Netanyahu a leader who understands how important it is to move forward, and as he has said, we also have a Palestinian president who shares that determination," she said.

  

Peres said he believed both sides would benefit from spurring the process as much as possible. "A few months ago there were many who didn't believe we would move from proximity talks to direct talks, but here we are," he said. "I believe we and the Palestinians know there is no other alternative."

 

But the issue of the moratorium on construction in West Bank settlements continues to cloud the talks. State Department spokesman PJ Crowley said Tuesday that the US would work with both sides to successfully overcome this obstacle.

 

But the London-based Al-Hayat cited Palestinian officials as saying that Israel had clarified in the Sharm talks that it would refuse to extend the moratorium.

 

In response, the report says, Palestinian negotiator Nabil Sha'ath said his government would withdraw from talks if the construction is renewed. "No one asked the Palestinian side to change its mind on the construction in settlements," he said.

 

Sha'ath added that the Americans had vowed to pressure Israel to continue the building freeze. The report quoted an official as saying that "Israel's renewal of construction after September 30 will cause the talks to fail. This is what was stressed in meetings held with Clinton, Netanyahu, and Mubarak."

 

 

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