Hillary to attend Middle East peace talks in Sharm el-Sheikh

Israeli and Palestinian leaders will now meet on September 14.

Washington: US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will attend a second round of peace talks between the Israeli and Palestinian leaders later this month in the Egyptian Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh, a State Department official said on Sunday.

After the September 14 talks between Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmud Abbas, Hillary will head on to Jerusalem for further discussions the following day, the official said.

"Secretary (Hillary) Clinton will be joined in these negotiations by Special Envoy for Middle East Peace Senator George Mitchell," the official added.

Abbas and Netanyahu relaunched direct peace talks at a Washington summit last Thursday after a 20-month hiatus, but the negotiations will face a major test later this month when an Israeli settlement moratorium expires.

The Palestinians have insisted that if Israel does not renew the partial freeze on settlement construction in the occupied West Bank when it expires on September 26, the peace process will come to an end.

Negotiations are due to be held every two weeks in the hope of meeting US President Barack Obama`s deadline of achieving a landmark peace deal within a year.

In opening some four hours of talks in Washington last Thursday, Hillary acknowledged the "suspicion and scepticism" leading up to the meetings after scores of previous US administrations tried and failed to help resolve the decades-old Middle East conflict.

Before the talks began, Netanyahu told Abbas that recognising his country as a Jewish state and ensuring its security were required before a broader agreement could be sealed.

But recognising Israel as the Jewish homeland would be a difficult political proposition for Abbas, as it could undermine the right-of-return claims of Palestinian refugees who left or fled Israel when it was created in 1948.

PTI

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