Category: MidEast Conflict

Obama Proposes Devastating Peace Deal for Palestinians

Article first published as Obama Proposes Devastating Peace Deal for Palestinians on Blogcritics.

Obama doesn’t know the value of peace. He doesn’t know how to achieve peace at all. Now, one can be sure that we cannot expect a viable peace plan for Middle-East from a person who received a Nobel peace prize within 13 days of his rule, even before he began signing palestine-mapgovernment’s papers. We cannot expect a promising peace from a persona who confirms wars are needed to establish peace while receiving Noble peace prize. That is what Mr. Obama proved by his latest peace plan for Palestinians. It is actually more like maintaining status quo for Israeli state rather than delivering peaceful state for Palestinians.

It is no wonder Israel’s Prime Minister Netanyahu is confident of convincing his pro-settler cabinet to accept the new Obama-sponsored peace deal. One is well aware of Netanyahu’s far-right views on Palestinians and their leaders, which came to light through a leaked video. It was revealed in that video that Netanyahu preferred continuous beating Palestinians till they accept what was imposed by Israeli state as a peace deal. Given such views, his acceptance to the Obama-sponsored peace deal means a death blow to the national aspirations of the long-suffering Palestinian people.

Salient Features

Some features of Obama’s new peace deal are:

  • A declaration by Israel “an additional suspension of construction in the West Bank for a mere 90 day period that does not include East Jerusalem occupied by Israel in 1967 war but not accepted by the international community
  • A pledge not to seek any extension to the settlement freeze after the expiry of 90 days even the talks are not concluded
  • A guarantee to veto any resolutions deemed to be anti-Israel, brought to the United Nations Security Council and other international organisations that seek to impose a political settlement on Israel
  • A supply of $3 billion worth war planes to Israel to maintain its qualitative edge in the region
  • Signing of a more comprehensive deal by the US to enhance its substantial security aid to Israel as part of any future agreement with Palestinians

It can be seen that this is completely one sided deal prepared for the advantage of Israelis. A peace deal should not be advantageous to either parties, but should confirm the genuine aspirations on both sides.

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Strains in Israel coalition over U.S. freeze package

Cracks emerged in Israel’s right-wing coalition on Tuesday ahead of an expected cabinet vote on whether to accept U.S. inducements to freeze West Bank settlement building so that stalled peace talks can resume. "I think we are facing a real disagreement," said Benny Begin, a respected right-wing minister and son of the late Menachem Begin who made peace with Egypt in the late 1970s. He said Washington’s offer to Israel of 20 F-35 stealth warplanes worth $3 billion was "the bait to push us into the diplomatic trap" by agreeing to a proposed 90-day halt to Jewish settlement building in the occupied territory.

Deputy Prime Minister Dan Meridor confirmed on Tuesday that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was waiting to receive the offer in writing from Washington before putting it to a vote in cabinet which is expected to convene on Wednesday. If the letter reflected verbal agreements between Netanyahu and U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in New York talks last week, then the cabinet would vote on it, he said.

In addition to ultranationalist, religious and pro-settler allies in his coalition, Netanyahu faces stiff opposition from within his own right-wing Likud party, where many lawmakers have vehemently stated their opposition to Israeli concessions. "(We) will do everything we can to prevent a decision on a freeze. We are also appealing to all members of our Likud faction to express their view," prominent Likud lawmaker Zeev Elkin said on Monday.

An Israeli diplomatic source said the U.S. written commitment was being delayed by pressure from the Palestinians, who object that it exempts East Jerusalem from a freeze, denies them any chance of seeking a further moratorium, and prevents them from pursuing an imposed settlement via the United Nations. Palestinian presidential aide Nabil Abu Rdainah said the Palestinians had yet to receive details of the final proposal and had made no formal remarks to the Americans concerning it.

STAKES GET HIGHER

U.S. President Barack Obama invested substantial political capital in persuading the Palestinians to resume direct talks with Israel in early September, after months of mediation. But, true to their warnings, they halted negotiations when Netanyahu refused to extend the 10-month partial construction moratorium on Jewish settlements in the West Bank after it expired at the end of that month.

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Obama calls latest Israeli plan promising

AP | MSNBC | 11/14/2010 | 5:03:09 PM ET

President Barack Obama on Sunday hailed the prospect of a new settlement freeze in the disputed West Bank as a promising step toward peace, urging Israelis and Palestinians to get back into serious negotiations quickly. An upbeat president also pledged to return to the basic principles that drove his thinking when he first came to the White House, including sticking to a more bipartisan tone and better explaining his decisions to the American people.

He spoke of moving from an "obsessive focus" on policy and making changes to his approach after a humbling midterm election. "The fact that we are out of crisis — although still obviously in a difficult time — I think will give me the capacity," Obama told reporters aboard Air Force One at the end of long Asia trip.

On the Mideast, Washington’s new proposal for reviving peace talks includes a 90-day ban on housing starts in West Bank settlements — but not in east Jerusalem, the Palestinians’ hoped-for capital. The goal is to give the two sides a three-month period to shape borders of side-by-side states, a daunting, elusive mission. Obama commended Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for making a "very constructive step" toward creating an environment for peace. "I think it’s a signal that he’s serious," Obama said.

U.S. officials said Netanyahu told the administration that he supports the plan and will try to win approval from his Cabinet. Obama said he hopes the Israeli leader and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas will resume negotiations soon. A previous 10-month moratorium in the West Bank expired Sept. 26, and talks have stalled, casting doubt about the notion of a peace deal within a year’s time, as Obama has sought. Just a few days ago, during a stop in Indonesia, Obama acknowledged he was worried about the peace process and urged both sides to show more effort.

Looking rested after two legs of an all-night flight from Asia, Obama on Sunday made an unannounced visit to the press cabin of Air Force One just before the plane landed at Andrews Air Force Base in Washington. The president sounded optimistic about getting Senate ratification of a new U.S.-Russia nuclear arms treaty during the postelection session of Congress, during which lawmakers try to push through matters before a new Congress convenes.

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Settlers start 600 new homes after ban ends – report

BBC | 22 October 2010 | 03:58 GMT

Jewish settlers have started building more than 600 homes in the West Bank since a building freeze expired last month, an Israeli pressure group says. The pace of building was four times faster than before the restrictions were put in place, Peace Now said. Palestinian negotiators have threatened to walk out of the recently resumed direct peace talks with Israel unless the construction freeze is reinstated.

New settlement constructionA UN envoy criticised Israel over the report, describing it as "alarming". Robert Serry, the UN Special Co-ordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, said building on occupied land was illegal under international law and would "only further undermine trust" in the peace process.

‘Natural pace’

A spokesman for Peace Now, Yariv Oppenheimer, told the BBC that more details on the new homes being built by settlers would be released in a report on Monday. Another official from the group, Hagit Ofran, added, "I estimate that work has started at about 600 housing units [since the end of the construction freeze], and I’m looking to complete the survey in order to know the exact number, and it is [at] different stages of construction. In some places, it is only levelling the ground that has started and in others, it’s the very foundation that is now being dug."

A separate count by the Associated Press estimated that ground had been broken on at least 544 new West Bank homes since 26 September, when Israel lifted its 10-month freeze on most new settlement building in the West Bank. Palestinian Authority spokesperson Ghassan Khatib said the figure was "alarming and is another indicator that Israel is not serious about the peace process, which is supposed to be about ending the occupation".

But Israeli government spokesperson Mark Regev said Israel wanted to "proceed to move forward in the peace process and all the difficult issues, all the core issues of the conflict are on the table, including the sensitive issue of settlements.

"In the interim, the limited construction under way will in no way impact upon the final contours of a peace agreement. Ultimately, it’s not about settlements, it’s about reaching a historic peace settlement," he added. An organisation representing Jewish settlers told the BBC they were not counting houses and the settlements needed to grow at a "natural pace".

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US given one-month deadline to rescue Mid-East talks

BBC News | 8 October 2010 | 21:39 GMT

Arab League foreign ministers have given the US one month to rescue deadlocked Middle East peace talks. At a meeting in Libya, they endorsed a decision by the Palestinian negotiators to stay away unless Israel restored a partial settlement construction freeze. But the ministers said the US had to be given more time to break the impasse.

Arab league The direct negotiations, the first in almost two years, resumed in September but later stalled when Israel refused to extend the freeze in the West Bank. Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas attended the meeting of Arab League foreign ministers in the Libyan city of Sirte.

Afterwards Qatari Foreign Minister Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim bin Jabr al-Thani, who chaired the meeting, told reporters: "The committee endorses the decision of President Abbas to stop the talks." "It urges the American side to pursue its efforts to prepare adequate grounds and circumstances to resume the peace process and put this peace process back on the right track, including stopping settlements," he added.

The Arab League ministers are now due to meet again in a month’s time to review the situation. The US state department later said: "We appreciate the Arab League’s statement of support for our efforts to create conditions that will allow direct talks to move forward."

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Arabs to seek alternatives for stalled peace talks

Reuters | Oct 8, 2010 | 6:57pm IST

Arab leaders will begin drafting alternatives for the Israeli-Palestinian peace process because the current round of talks has stalled, Arab League Secretary-General Amir Moussa said on Friday. "We will meet to formulate the beginning of alternatives within the framework that the negotiations are not bearing fruit," Moussa said after a meeting of the Arab League’s peace process follow-up committee in Libya.

"There are no talks at the moment because the position of the Israelis is very, very negative. They are not cooperating in the negotiations," Moussa said. The committee would meet the Palestinian delegation on Friday night but would not advise Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas what he should do next, Moussa said.

The Arab League foreign ministers met in the Libyan town of Sirte to hear Abbas’s case for suspending talks with Israel until it extends a moratorium on Jewish settlement building in the occupied West Bank. Launched in Washington just five weeks ago, the talks veered into a dead end on Sept. 26 when Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Nentayhu refused to extend a halt to construction of Jewish settlements, which he had said would last 10 months.

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West Bank mosque ‘set alight by Jewish settlers’

BBC News | 4 October 2010 | 11:19 GMT

  • More than 430,000 settlers in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, alongside 2.5 million Palestinians
  • 20,000 settlers live in the Golan Heights
  • Settlements and the area they take up cover 40% of the West Bank
  • There are about 100 settlements not authorised by the Israeli government in the West Bank

West Bank mosque attack Israel is investigating Palestinian reports that a mosque in the West Bank has been set alight by Jewish settlers. Palestinian officials say settlers set fire to the mosque in Beit Fajjar, near the town of Bethlehem. They blame residents of a nearby settlement because the arsonists reportedly scrawled Hebrew graffiti on one of the mosque’s walls.

The assault comes as Palestinian-Israeli peace talks have faltered over the issue of settlements. Israel has occupied the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, since 1967, settling close to 500,000 Jews in more than 100 settlements. Some 2.5 million Palestinians live in the West Bank. Jewish settlements are illegal under international law, though Israel disputes this.

Failed investigations

A spokesperson for the Israeli military said it was taking the burning of the mosque very seriously. "The IDF as well as the other security forces in Israel see the incident this morning in a very severe manner," army spokesperson Avital Leibowitz told reporters in Tel Aviv. "We are doing the utmost in order to reach those law-breakers." Previous Israeli investigations of mosque attacks have failed to produce results.

In April, a mosque was vandalised with Hebrew graffiti, cars were burnt and olive trees uprooted in the village of Hawara, near the Yitzhar settlement. And in May, a mosque in the Palestinian village of Lubban al-Sharqiya, near Nablus, was gutted by fire, which also destroyed holy books. No charges were brought against anyone in either case.

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West Asia Peace Talks are a game for Netanyahu

Article first published as West Asia Peace Talks are a Game for Netanyahu on Blogcritics.

direct-peace-talks The much-hyped Middle East peace talks have faced a dead end with all parties standing rigid at their positions without making any move. As the self-imposed partial freeze of settlement building has expired on September 26, the settlement building resumed despite warnings and requests from the US establishment.

Eretz Yisrael

Although the peace talks were supposed to be held without preconditions, the president of the Palestinian Authority Mr. Abbas has declared before the talks that Israel must freeze its settlement building for the peace process to be continued. Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told before leaving for talks, to the supporters of his Likud party that they had nothing to worry. “You don’t need to worry. Nobody needs to teach me what it is to love Eretz Yisrael,” referring to the idea of an Israel stretching from Mediterranean sea to the Jordan river including the whole of the West Bank. (‘Frontline’ fortnightly’s print edition – October 8, 2010)

Netanyahu’s love for Eretz Yisrael implies his unwillingness to the existence of Palestinians’ West Bank. If it is so, why should he dance to the tune of Mr. Obama? It is not clear whether Obama is in the pocket of Netanyahu or Netanyahu is in the pocket of Obama. However, the doubt appears to be cleared with a leaked video of Mr. Netanyahu.

Leaked Video

A video was published on Youtube that shot Benjamin talking to a family, supposedly a victim of terrorist attack, in a West Bank settlement of Ofra. He asked to stop shooting preparing himself to tell something that cannot be

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Diplomats of EU and US try to salvage Middle East talks

BBC News | 1 October 2010 | 10:21 GMT

  • 62% under full Israeli control. This area contains all Israeli settlements, roads used by settlers, buffer zones and almost all of the Jordan Valley
  • 38% under Palestinian civil control. In more than half of this, Israel has security control
  • There are 149 settlements and 100 outposts (settlements not authorised by Israel)
  • Population: 2.4 million Palestinians, 500,000 Jewish or Israeli settlers

west_bank U.S. and European diplomats are continuing efforts to salvage the Middle East peace talks. EU foreign policy chief, Baroness Ashton, has met Palestinian PM Salam Fayyad in the West Bank, and is heading to Jerusalem to meet Israel’s Benjamin Netanyahu. US envoy George Mitchell was scheduled to make the reverse journey.

The Palestinians say they will quit the talks unless Israel extends its partial freeze on settlement building. Mr Netanyahu has said that his right-wing coalition could fracture if the construction freeze, which expired on Sunday, is extended.

Direct peace talks between the Israelis and Palestinian were resumed in Washington in September after a 20-month hiatus. The US administration has given them strong backing, but has not been able to persuade the Israeli government to extend its partial moratorium on settlement building.

Israel has occupied the West Bank since the Middle East war of 1967, settling some 500,000 Jews in more than 100 settlements, which are held to be illegal under international law, although Israel disputes this. About 2.5 million Palestinians live in the West Bank. Hamas that controls the Gaza Strip and is not taking part in the talks with Israel, has urged Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas to withdraw from them.

Letter denied

Mr Mitchell and Mr Abbas had held two hours of talks in Ramallah on Thursday. "We are determined to continue our efforts to find common ground between the parties to enable the direct negotiations to continue," he said afterwards.

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Abbas: Peace talks to go on despite end of building freeze

msnbc.com | 9/26/2010 | 6:15:12 AM ET

Palestinians would not immediately end peace talks with Israel if it did not extend a 10-month limited settlement moratorium expiring on Sunday, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas was quoted as saying. In another sign that a way could be found out of a crisis threatening negotiations that began less than a month ago, Israeli Defence Minister Ehud Barak said there was more than an even chance the peace process would continue.

Netanyahu shakes hand with Abbas as Clinton watches Abbas has said repeatedly he would walk out of direct negotiations with Israel unless the partial halt to building remained in place. Palestinians view Israel’s settlements as a formidable obstacle to statehood. But asked in an interview conducted on Friday with pan-Arab newspaper al-Hayat whether he would declare an end to the negotiations if the partial construction freeze did not continue, Abbas said, "No, we will go back to the Palestinian institutions, to the Arab (League) follow-up committee."

He was referring to an Arab League forum that gave permission to proceed to pursue direct peace talks with Israel that began on Sept. 2. The 10-month settlement moratorium expires at midnight (2200 GMT) on Sunday.

Obama has urged Israel to continue the freeze, but Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, whose coalition is packed with pro-settler parties, has offered only to limit the scope of renewed building rather than order a moratorium extension. Israeli and Palestinian officials met U.S. diplomats in New York over the weekend to try to find a solution and to prevent the much-heralded negotiations from falling at the first hurdle.

Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak, who held talks over the past several days in New York on the issue, said there was a better than even chance the peace negotiations would continue even without a moratorium. "I think that the chance of achieving a mutually agreed understanding about (a) moratorium is 50-50. I think that the chances of having a peace process are much higher," he said in a BBC interview.

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Clinton meets Abbas amid Middle East peace moves

Clinton with Jordan king Abdulla Israeli settlements on occupied land

  • More than 430,000 settlers in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, alongside 2.5 million Palestinians
  • 20,000 settlers live in the Golan Heights
  • Settlements and the area they take up cover 40% of the West Bank
  • There are about 100 settlements not authorised by the Israeli govt in the West Bank

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has met Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to conclude three days of talks with Israeli and Palestinian leaders. With no sign of a deal on settlement building in the West Bank, Mr Abbas said there was no choice but to continue negotiating. President Mubarak of Egypt has urged Israel to extend the partial ban on construction for three months. Mrs Clinton repeated her confidence that all core issues could be resolved.

‘No alternative’

As Mrs Clinton arrived in Ramallah in the West Bank, Mr Abbas said everyone knew there was no alternative to peace through negotiations. "So we have no alternative other than to continue these efforts," he said. The Palestinian leader acknowledged that conditions were difficult, and a senior Palestinian official was quoted as saying that broad gaps remained on the question of settlements. Neither Mrs Clinton nor Mr Abbas spoke after the meeting. The US secretary of state then travelled to Jordan for a meeting with King Abdullah II. Jordan already has a peace treaty with Israel, and King Abdullah took part in

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Ban condemns killing of four Israeli citizens

MSN News | PTI | 01/09/2010

The United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has condemned the killing of four Israelis by the Islamist group Hamas in the West Bank, describing it as an attempt to undermine the crucial direct talks between Israel and the Palestine leadership. "This attack must be recognized for what it is: a cynical and blatant attempt to undermine the direct Israeli-Palestinian negotiations starting tomorrow," Ban said.

Noting that the attack comes just ahead of the peace talks between Israeli and Palestinians that begin tomorrow in Washington, Ban urged parties not to be sidetracked by the attack. "He (Ban) extends his condolences to the families of the victims and calls for the perpetrators of this crime to be promptly brought to justice," a statement from his office said. "Negotiations are the only way for the parties to resolve all final status issues. The Secretary-General calls upon both sides to show leadership, courage, and responsibility to realize the aspirations of both people," it said. The UN has also called for the perpetrators of the attack to be apprehended and prosecuted. "We condemn this murderous act and call for those responsible to be brought to justice," Robert Serry, the UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, said in a statement issued in Jerusalem.

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Israeli academics boycott West Bank settlements

BBC News | 31 August 2010 | 13:51 GMT

More than 150 Israeli academics say they will no longer lecture or work in Jewish settlements in the West Bank. In a letter, they said they supported the recent decision by a group of actors and others not to take part in cultural activity there. The academics said that acceptance of the settlements caused "critical" damage to Israel’s chances of achieving peace with the Palestinians. The actors were criticised for refusing to perform at a new cultural centre. On Sunday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the last thing Israel needed as it resumed direct peace talks, was a boycott from within.

In a letter published on Sunday, the academics said they would no longer take part in any kind of cultural activity, or lecture in any kind of academic setting, in settlements built on land occupied following the Middle East war – demarcated by what is commonly known as the "Green Line". They explained that they wanted to show support and solidarity for the 53 actors, writers and directors who last week said they would not take part in performances at the new cultural centre built in Ariel. "We’d like to remind the Israeli public that, like all settlements, Ariel is also in occupied territory," the academics said. "If a future peace agreement with the Palestinian authorities puts Ariel within Israel’s borders, then it will be treated like any other Israeli town." "Legitimatisation and acceptance of the settler enterprise cause critical damage to Israel’s chances of achieving a peace accord with its Palestinian neighbours."

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Israel rabbi calls for ‘plague’ on Mahmoud Abbas

BBC News | 30 August 2010 | 06:59 GMT

A senior rabbi from a party within Israel’s coalition government has called for Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas to "vanish from our world". Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, spiritual leader of Shas, spoke out as Middle East talks are poised to begin in Washington. The United States condemned the remarks as "deeply offensive". Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu distanced himself from the comments with a statement saying that his government wanted peace with the Palestinians. The attack on Mr Abbas, delivered in the rabbi’s weekly sermon, also prompted chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erakat to condemn the remarks as "an incitement to genocide". Mr Erakat urged the Israeli government "to do more about peace and stop spreading hatred", the AFP news agency reported.

‘Regret and condemn’

Rabbi Yosef expressed the wish that "all the nasty people who hate Israel, like Abu Mazen (Abbas), vanish from our world". He went on to say: "May God strike them down with the plague along with all the nasty Palestinians who persecute Israel." The remarks come as Mr Netanyahu is due in Washington this week for direct peace talks with Mr Abbas. US President Barack Obama hopes to bring the leaders together on Thursday for the first face-to-face discussions since December 2008, when the Palestinians broke off negotiations over Israel’s offensive against the Gaza Strip. The US response to Rabbi Yosef, a founder of the ultra-Orthodox Shas party, was swift. In a statement, US State Department spokesman Philip Crowley said: "We regret and condemn the inflammatory statements by Rabbi Ovadia Yosef. These remarks are not only deeply offensive, but incitement such as this hurts the cause of peace."

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Israel and the Palestinians to resume direct talks

Israel and the Palestinians have agreed to resume direct negotiations for the first time in 20 months, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has said. Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas have been invited to Washington on 2 September to start the talks. They have agreed to place a one-year time limit on the direct negotiations. But correspondents say prospects of a comprehensive deal are slim, as serious disagreements exist on the core issues. Sensitive areas – including the construction of Jewish settlements on occupied territory, the status of Jerusalem, the borders of a future Palestinian state and the right of return – will be difficult to overcome.

‘Obstacles’

Speaking at the state department, Mrs Clinton said President Barack Obama had been encouraged by the leadership of Mr Netanyahu and Mr Abbas, and had invited them to Washington to “relaunch direct negotiations to resolve all final status issues, which we believe can be completed within one year”. “President Obama has invited President Mubarak of Egypt and King Abdullah of Jordan to attend, in view of their critical role in this effort. Their continued leadership and commitment to peace will be essential to our success,” she added. Mr Obama will hold meetings with the four leaders, followed by a dinner with them, on 1 September. Tony Blair, the special representative of the Middle East Quartet – which comprises the US, the UN, the EU and Russia – has also been invited.

A trilateral meeting at the state department between Mrs Clinton, Mr Abbas and Mr Netanyahu will formally relaunch the direct peace talks the following day. “As we move forward, it is important that actions by all sides help to advance our effort, not hinder it. There have been difficulties in the past, there will be difficulties ahead. Without a doubt, we will hit more obstacles,” Mrs Clinton said. “But I ask the parties to persevere, to keep moving forward even through difficult times and to continue working to achieve a just and lasting peace in the region,” she added. “These negotiations should take place without preconditions and be characterised by good faith and a commitment to their success, which will bring a better future to all of the people of the region.” Continue reading