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Peace Agreement Unlikely But Talks Are Necessary, Says Avigdor Liberman

Peace between Israelis and the Palestinians is unlikely, but talks must continue if only to manage the conflict, Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman said.

“Trust between the two sides is about zero,” Liberman said Friday evening at the annual Saban Forum, a gathering in Washington of Israeli and U.S. persons of influence.

Liberman said U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry would not achieve an agreement within a year, as Kerry has anticipated, and cautioned against creating “expectations.” Liberman excoriated Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas as undemocratic and unrepresentative.

However, Liberman also said he was grateful to Kerry for restarting talks with the Palestinians, saying that dialogue was crucial to preventing violence.

“It’s crucial to keep this dialogue,” he said during his interview-style appearance. “It’s important to manage this conflict.”

Liberman said differences between the Obama and Netanyahu governments on Iran policy were clear, but – in an implied rebuke of Netanyahu, who has sharply criticized U.S. policy – he said such disputes should be handled privately.

“I don’t like all the public discussion about the Iranian issue,” he said. “It’s impossible to discuss on TV screens.” Netanyahu has said that an interim sanctions relief for nuclear rollback deal negotiated last month between Iran and the major powers is a bad one and will allow Iran to advance toward a nuclear weapon.

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