Jerusalem: US Secretary of State Hillary
Clinton said Israeli and Palestinian leaders were "serious"
about peace ahead of a meeting on Wednesday expected to address a
lingering deadlock over Jewish settlements.
The three were to meet in the early evening a day after
holding hours of discussions in Egypt which focused on the
core issues of the conflict as well as the expiry of a partial
settlement moratorium later this month.
"They are getting down to business and they have begun to
grapple with the core issues that can only be resolved with
face-to-face negotiations," Clinton told reporters after
meeting Israeli President Shimon Peres.
"I believe they are serious about reaching an
agreement... This is the time and these are the leaders, and
the United States will stand by them as they make difficult
Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas has warned that if the
moratorium is not extended, he will walk out of the
negotiations, which were relaunched earlier this month after a
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has refused to
renew the moratorium but hinted he would rein in settlement
construction after US President Barack Obama said he had urged
the premier to renew the restrictions.
Clinton was to hold a series of talks ahead of the
three-way meeting at 1500 GMT, including with Israel`s
tough-talking foreign minister Avigdor Lieberman, who strongly
opposes any continuation of the settlement freeze.
The US secretary of state met President Shimon Peres
early today ahead of talks with Defence Minister Ehud Barak
and Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad.