'Abbas and Obama speak on the phone'

Clinton reports scant US

October 22, 2009 23:17
3 minute read.
Clinton lays down the law 248.88

Clinton lays down the law 248.88. (photo credit: AP [file])

US President Barack Obama called Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas on Friday and told him he was committed to the formation of a Palestinian state, Palestinian news agency Ma'an reported. According to the report, the two discussed the stalled peace process and the difficulties it faces. Abbas reportedly expressed his own commitment to the process. Abbas spokesman Nabil Abu Rudeineh said of the conversation that it was "very important to the future of the peace process and the region." Meanwhile, Obama's Mideast envoy George Mitchell said Thursday it's too soon to brand his efforts to resume peace talks between Israeli and Palestinian leaders a failure. The former Senate leader said the administration is deeply committed to the peace process. He said no other president has taken action so early in his administration to start peace talks in the region whose conflicts have "deep and historic roots." "There's a sense of urgency, a sense of involvement and commitment" on the part of the president, Mitchell said before delivering a speech on conflict resolution at Colby College. His speech also came as US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton received a report the progress of peace efforts in the Mideast. Mitchell has been shuttling between Israeli and Palestinian leaders for months in an attempt to get peace talks between the two sides going again. Mitchell acknowledged setbacks in the process, including a United Nations report that accused Israel and Hamas of committing war crimes last winter, compiled by the Goldstone Commission that investigated the IDF's Operation Cast Lead. "We continue in our efforts, notwithstanding that" report, Mitchell said. He noted that the United States has taken the position that the report is "one sided and deeply flawed." He said the process has been in motion only for months. His experience in Northern Ireland from 1995 to 1999 suggests that the current peacemaking effort could take years. "I am not in the slightest discouraged," said the 76-year-old Mitchell. He recalled being asked "hundreds of times" while negotiating in Northern Ireland when he was going home because the talks were considered a failure. He finally brokered the Good Friday peace accords in 1999. The current efforts are "as difficult and complex as everyone told me it would be," said Mitchell. "But we are determined to stay the course ... until the job is done." Mitchell said he and Clinton plan to attend a conference in Morocco on November 2 where they will meet with foreign ministers from most or all of the Arab countries. "The secretary of state has been directly and personally and actively involved" in the process, said Mitchell, adding that he completed a round of meetings this week with Israeli and Palestinian negotiators where "some good progress" was made. Earlier Thursday, Clinton met with Obama in the Oval Office to report little to no progress in a status report he had requested by mid-October. Clinton advised the president that challenges remain before peace talks can resume, according to an administration official who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss more freely a private conversation with the president. Clinton reported that Palestinians have strengthened security efforts and reforms of Palestinian institutions, but more needs to be done to prevent terror and end incitement. That means they must stop those who carry out or even encourage attacks on Israel. On the Israeli side, she said they have eased Palestinians' freedom of movement and expressed a willingness to curtail the building of Jewish settlements in Palestinian areas. The administration, however, like the Palestinians, is demanding an end to all new settlement construction, on which the Israelis are not budging. Clinton said the Israelis also must do more to improve Palestinians' daily lives. Clinton told the president that Israelis must translate their willingness on settlements into "real, meaningful action."

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