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Middle East/US

Clinton criticises Israel on visit to Abbas

Article published on the 2009-03-04 Latest update 2009-03-04 15:16 TU

Clinton (L) with Abbas(Photo: Reuters)

Clinton (L) with Abbas
(Photo: Reuters)

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called on Israel to allow more aid into the war-ravaged Gaza Strip, end settlements in the Palestinian territories and back a Palestinian state on a visit to Ramallah Wednesday, when she met President Mahmud Abbas. While stressing Washington's support for Israel, she also announced that two envoys will go to Syria.

"The United States aims to foster conditions in which a Palestinian state can be fully realised," said Cliton after meeting Abbas in the occupied West Bank on the second day of her first trip to the region.

She called on Israel to open border crossings into Gaza, as the Palestinians demand, to allow humanitarian aid into the region.

And she called on Israel to stop Jewish settlements in the West Bank and drop the Jerusalem city council's plans to destroy dozens of homes built without permits in mostly Arab east Jerusalem.

"Clearly this kind of activity is unhelpful and not in keeping with the obligations entered into under the roadmap," she said, referring to the internationally-backed plan to work for a Palestinian state agreed in 2003.

Abbas also called for the borders to Gaza to be opened.

Clinton repeated her insistence that Israel can count on US support, as the country prepares for a right-wing government led by Likud's Benjamin Netanyahu.

Correspondent Elias Zananeri sees a difference between the US's current approach and that outlined by Barack Obama's administration.

"Question number one is the settlement contruction in the West Bank," he told RFI, "especially after the latest reports that spoke of the Housing Ministry unshelving quite a number of plans that include the contruction of thousands of new housing units in the West Bank.

"The second question is, of course, Israel’s commitment to the two-state solution, especially after Prime Minister-designate Benjamin Netanyahu refused to commit himself to the two-state solution."

Q+A: Correspondent Elias Zananeri

04/03/2009 by Salil Sarkar

 Clinton also announced that two members of her delegation, Jeffrey Feltman and Daniel Shapiro, are expected to travel to Syria at the end of the week. That will be the US's highest-level contact with Damascus since January 2005.

Early on Wednesday, Israeli airplanes launched two raids on tunnels between Gaza and Egypt.