Clinton: US pressing for talks

UN and Russia also intent on relaunching peace negotiations.

Ban Ki-moon & Lavrov 311 (photo credit: Associated Press)
Ban Ki-moon & Lavrov 311
(photo credit: Associated Press)
WASHINGTON – US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton stressed Thursday that the United States remains focused on relaunching peace talks between the Israelis and Palestinians despite the tensions between the US and Israel in recent days and the flaring violence in Jerusalem.
Clinton was in Russia ahead of a Quartet meeting of the US, European Union, United Nations and Russia, focusing on the Middle East peace effort.
“Our goals remain the same. It is to relaunch negotiations between the Israelis and the Palestinians on a path that will lead to a two-state solution,” she said at a press conference with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov ahead of the meeting. “Nothing has happened that in any way affects our commitment to pursuing that.”
Clinton did refer to “some challenges” when asked about the difficulties with Israel, but she added, “We meet them as they come.”
Russia and the UN also vowed Thursday to resuscitate Israeli-Palestinian peace talks, whose prospects seemed unclear  following Israel’s announcement it was planning to build new apartments in Jerusalem’s Ramat Shlomo neighborhood.
UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said that Friday’s Quartet meeting in Moscow should help restart talks.
“There is no other alternative to direct peace talks,” Ban said after meeting with Lavrov.
Lavrov said that the main goal of the mediators is to persuade Israel and the Palestinians to resume talks, and said the Quartet would issue a strong joint statement to this effect after the meeting.
“Quartet members are fully committed to end their meeting with a very concrete, clear document that that will confirm all previous decisions of the world community about conditions and parameters of direct talks between Israel and Palestinians,” Lavrov said.
The Moscow talks had originally been scheduled to coincide with the start of the “proximity” talks, which got derailed by the Ramat Shlomo announcement.
Clinton had called the announcement, which came during a visit to Israel by US Vice President Joe Biden, an insult and “a deeply negative signal” for the peace process.
Clinton also will use her Moscow visit to discuss other high foreign policy priorities of the Obama administration, chiefly the bid to stop Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons and arms control.
The US and Russia are also said to be close to concluding a follow to the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty, which expired in December, but the final bargaining has been rocky.