President Barack Obama Says Jewish Settlements Issue Must Not Block Peace

Tells Palestinians Stalled Peace Process Is Main Issue

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By Reuters

Published March 21, 2013.
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Some 150 Palestinian demonstrators gathered in Ramallah to protest against Obama’s visit. They were held back by mass ranks of police who prevented them from nearing Abbas’s compound.

A smiling Obama, accompanied by Abbas, was met by mostly stern-faced Palestinian officials along a red carpet - a stark contrast to the broad grins and backslapping during an elaborate welcoming ceremony on Wednesday at Israel’s Tel Aviv airport.

ARAB RECOGNITION

Obama, embarking on a second and final four-year term in the White House, has made clear he is not bringing any new peace initiatives but instead has come to Israel and the Palestinian Territories on a “listening” tour.

But he said his new secretary of state, John Kerry, would spend a significant amount of time and energy trying to narrow differences between the two sides as the United States seeks to move them back to the negotiating table.

Abbas reaffirmed his demand for a settlement freeze, but held out the prospect of a broader peace between Israel and other Arab nations if a Palestinian state was created.

“If peace came between us and the Israelis, Israel knows well that all the Arab and Islamic countries, 57 states, will recognise the state of Israel immediately,” he said.

As a reminder of the ever-present risks in the region, Iranian state television quoted Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei as saying Tehran would raze Tel Aviv and the city of Haifa if Israel carried out veiled threats to attack Iran.

And Palestinians in the Gaza Strip fired two rockets into Sderot, a southern Israeli town that Obama visited when running for president in 2008. Police said no one was hurt.

There was no claim of responsibility, and Obama is not going to visit Gaza, which is controlled by the Islamist group Hamas, a rival to the Western-backed Abbas, who condemned the attack.


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