Clinton, Israel zoom in on new Egypt

2012-07-16 22:34
Hillary Clinton and Shimon Peres hug after a meeting in Jerusalem. (Oded Balilty AP)

Hillary Clinton and Shimon Peres hug after a meeting in Jerusalem. (Oded Balilty AP)

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Jerusalem - Israel and the United States must think and act together to face the changes sweeping the Middle East, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said on Monday after meeting President Shimon Peres.

Clinton, who arrived late on Sunday after two days of talks with the new leadership in Egypt, hailed a "moment of great change and transformation in the region."

"It is a time of uncertainty but also of opportunity. It is a chance to advance our shared goals of security, stability, peace and democracy," she said after talks with Peres focusing on Egypt, Syria, Iran's nuclear programme and peace efforts with the Palestinians.

"It is in moments like these that friends like us have to think together, act together," she said.

On the last leg of a 13-day, nine-nation tour, Clinton held early talks with her Israeli counterpart Avigdor Lieberman before meeting Peres, briefing both on her discussions with Egypt's newly-elected President Mohammed Morsi and military leader Field Marshal Hussein Tantawi.

During their talks, Clinton updated Peres "on the latest developments and the approaches of the new Egyptian leadership, and stressed the importance of strengthening the relations between Israel and Egypt and maintaining the peace between the countries", the president's office said.

Much depending on Egypt

"We appreciate very much that immediately after Egypt, you came to us with your latest impressions because for us, as well as for the United States, Egypt is a key country in the Middle East and much depends on Egypt and a little bit on us as well, to continue the great march of peace," Peres said in remarks to the press.

Fears have been raised that Morsi, who emerged out of the Islamist Muslim Brotherhood to be sworn in as Egypt's first democratically elected president, might seek to renegotiate the treaty.

Clinton also held an in-depth discussion with Peres about the international stand-off over Iran's nuclear programme which Israel, Washington and much of the West believes is a cover for a weapons drive. Tehran flatly denies the charge.

Israel believes a nuclear Iran would pose an existential threat to the Jewish state and has refused to rule out a military strike to prevent such an eventuality.

Sanctions

Clinton said the Obama administration was "committed to building and maintaining a wide coalition to deny Iran the ability to acquire nuclear weapons", and reassured the Israeli leader that the tough economic sanctions imposed on Tehran "will continue to become harsher", Peres' office said.

Peres, who is known to favour diplomacy over the idea of a military strike, expressed confidence in Washington's tough stance towards the Islamic republic.

"The measures you have taken are beginning to have their impact and they are the right start," he said, referring to the sanctions.

"We appreciate very much your position. We trust its depth and dedication and determination and we feel partners of this coalition."

The two also discussed diplomatic efforts to end the bloodshed in Syria and the deadlock in efforts to restart peace negotiations with the Palestinians.

Clinton later held talks with Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad, but there was no immediate comment from either side on the meeting. She had met with Palestinian President Mahmud Abbas in Paris on 6 July, at the start of her trip.

Devising ways to restart the moribund peace process was also high on the agenda, following nearly two years of stalemate sparked by an intractable dispute over Jewish settlement building on land the Palestinians want for a future state.

"Obviously, every day that goes by where there is not a peace agreement is a day, that leaves us unsatisfied," a state department official told reporters late on Sunday, ahead of the talks.

Read more on:    mohammed morsi  |  hillary clinton  |  shimon peres  |  syria  |  iran  |  israel  |  us  |  egypt  |  uprisings  |  middle east peace  |  iran nuclear programme
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