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'Still hope' over Middle East deal

The Obama administration has insisted there was still time to avert a divisive showdown over Palestinian statehood, ignoring President Mahmoud Abbas' defiant pledge to take his government's case to the United Nations and reaching out to Western allies in the hope of a last-ditch compromise.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said the US was engaged in "extremely intensive" diplomacy with Israel, the Palestinians and the other governments gathered in New York for the annual UN General Assembly meeting.

Mr Abbas said he was under "tremendous pressure" to drop his bid, which the US and Israel see as counter-productive to resuming moribund Middle East peace efforts. But even as international diplomats were meeting across New York, no clear alternative path had emerged that might advance peace talks.

"We continue to believe and are pressing the point that the only way to a two-state solution, which is what we support and want to see happen, is through negotiations," Mrs Clinton told reporters at a New York hotel as she was about to start a meeting with Japanese Foreign Minister Koichiro Genba.

"No matter what does or doesn't happen this week, it will not produce the kind of result that everyone is hoping for," she said.

Mrs Clinton said the week was still young and there were still several days to find a compromise. The US and Europe have been trying to find a formula that would pave the way for direct Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations, while addressing the Palestinian frustration with the lack of progress over the past year.

Only 12 months ago, President Barack Obama said he hoped to welcome Palestine as the newest UN member at this year's global gathering. But the Palestinian decision to go to the United Nations without agreement with Israel caused Washington to work against the plan and promise to veto it in the UN Security Council.

Mr Obama, who arrived in New York on Monday afternoon, was scheduled to meet later in the week with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, though there were no immediate plans for the president to meet Mr Abbas.

White House deputy national security adviser Ben Rhodes said the US and international partners continue to be in touch with the Palestinians "at all levels". Several ideas for restarting peace talks have been discussed, he said, without going into detail.

Earlier on Monday, Mrs Clinton asked key Muslim ally Turkey not to allow its rift with Israel to grow wider as the two US allies, and formerly close regional partners, have yet to resolve the tensions stemming from last year's deadly Israeli raid on a Turkish aid flotilla trying to reach the Gaza Strip.


From Belfast Telegraph