WASHINGTON (AFP) ...Obama met Palestinian leader Mahmud Abbas for the first time as president.. ...The US president recalled that last week he had been "very clear" with Netanyahu about the need to "stop settlements" and again stated his desire to see a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
He was asked by a reporter if he would strong-arm Israel if it did not back down in its refusal to support a Palestinian state. "I think it's important not to assume the worst, but to assume the best," said Obama, who rejected an opportunity to set a date for the establishment of a "viable, potential" Palestinian state. "I want to see progress made, and we will work very aggressively to achieve it. I don't want to put an artificial timetable," he said.
"I am confident that we can move this forward if all parties are ready to meet their obligations."
...The US president also called on Abbas to offer security improvements to Israel and to quell anti-Israel incitement in Palestinian mosques and schools.
Abbas warned that all parties should work night and day to alleviate the plight of the Palestinians and move towards statehood. "I would like to take this opportunity to affirm to you that we are fully committed to all of our obligations under the roadmap, from the 'A' to the 'Z'," he said....
...The US-backed roadmap calls for a halt to Jewish settlement activity in Palestinian territories and an end to Palestinian attacks against Israel but has made little progress since it was drafted in 2003.
[AFP have omitted to mention "Phase I: Ending Terror And Violence, Normalizing Palestinian Life, and Building Palestinian Institutions ...In Phase I, the Palestinians immediately undertake an unconditional cessation of violence ...Palestinians and Israelis resume security cooperation based on the Tenet work plan to end violence, terrorism, and incitement through restructured and effective Palestinian security services. Palestinians undertake comprehensive political reform in preparation for statehood..." - verbatim quote from the text of the Roadmap, with my emphasis added - SL]
Clinton had on Wednesday said Obama "wants to see a stop to settlements. Not some settlements, not outposts, not natural growth exceptions."
But Israel on Thursday dismissed the blunt US call.
"Normal life" will be allowed in settlements in the occupied West Bank, government spokesman Mark Regev said... ...[meaning] continuing construction to accommodate population growth. He added the fate of settlements "will be determined in final status negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians and in the interim, normal life must be allowed to continue in those communities."
...The Israeli prime minister told his cabinet Sunday he did not intend to build new settlements but that "it makes no sense to ask us not to answer to the needs of natural growth and to stop all construction," aides said.
The Abbas meeting represented Obama's latest attempt to revive the stalled Middle East peace process, which have included talks with Jordan's King Abdullah II, Netanyahu and in London with Saudi King Abdullah.
Next week, Obama will meet the Saudi King in Riyadh and deliver a long-awaited address to the Muslim world in Cairo. But he said he would not lay out his long-awaited peace plan in the speech, which he said was designed to lay out a path for a "better" US relationship with the Islamic world.