biden abbas BFF thumbs up 311.
(photo credit: AP)
US Vice President Joe Biden said Wednesday the Palestinians deserve a
"viable" independent state with contiguous territory, seeking to
reassure them of US support after the Interior Ministry on Tuesday
approved a plan to expand the Jewish Ramat Shlomo neighborhood in east
Biden said that the approval of a plan to build 1,600 new housing units in the
east Jerusalem neighborhood "undermines peace efforts."
Israeli move has overshadowed Biden's visit, meant to promote a new
round of US-led negotiations brokered by US special envoy to the
Mideast George Mitchell, and drawn Palestinian accusations that Israel
is not serious about peace.
Capping a day of meetings with
Palestinian leaders, Biden told his hosts that the US is committed to
brokering a final peace deal — something that has eluded US leaders for
"The United States pledges to play an active as well as
a sustainable role in these talks," Biden said. He stressed the
Palestinians deserve an independent state that is "viable and
contiguous," meaning the territory should not be broken up by Israeli
It was a clear message to Israel that the US expects a broad withdrawal from the West Bank as part of a deal.
alongside Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, Biden
reiterated his condemnation of the Israeli plan and urged both sides to
refrain from actions "that inflame tensions or prejudice the outcome of
"It's incumbent on both parties to build an atmosphere of support for negotiations, and not to complicate them," Biden said.
however, said Israel's continued settlement construction, especially in
Jerusalem, threatens the negotiations before they get off the ground.
call on Israel to cancel these decisions," Abbas said. "I call on the
Israeli government not to lose a chance to make peace. I call on them
to halt settlement building and to stop imposing facts on the ground,
and to give the efforts of the Obama administration and Senator
Mitchell the chance to succeed."
As Biden arrived in Ramallah to
meet with Palestinian leaders, Palestinian Authority Prime Minister
Salam Fayyad said the building plan was "damaging" and posed a "great
challenge" to restarting peace talks.
Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat also blasted the new construction.
think the Israeli government is making it almost impossible for us, the
Americans and the international community, to take a one centimeter
step in the direction of reviving the peace process," Erekat said.
Fayyad said the Palestinians appreciated "the strong statement of condemnation" by the US administration.
was referring to a statement by Biden issued on Tuesday night, in which
he said that "the substance and timing of the announcement,
particularly with the launching of proximity talks, is precisely the
kind of step that undermines the trust we need right now."
The construction plan also drew a sharp rebuke from Egypt, Israel's
closest ally in the Arab world, and from UN Secretary-General Ban
"This is absurd. It is disdainful of the Arab and the Palestinian
positions and the American mediation," said Hossam Zaki, a spokesman
for the Egyptian Foreign Ministry.