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Obama-Netanyahu talks focus on Palestinians and Iran

Article published on the 2009-05-19 Latest update 2009-05-19 10:06 TU

US President Barak Obama (R) hosts Israel's prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Washington, DC, 19 May 2009(Photo: Reuters/Larry Downing

US President Barak Obama (R) hosts Israel's prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Washington, DC, 19 May 2009
(Photo: Reuters/Larry Downing

In their first official meeting, US President Barak Obama and Israel's new Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, laid their cards on the table about crucial issues. The talks at the White House have highlighted their differences over attitudes to Iran and to creating a new Palestinian state.

After more than three hours of talks Monday, half of which were one on one, Netanyahu offered immediate discussions with the Palestinians but stopped short of endorsing Obama's call for a two-state solution.

Obama said after the talks that he was confident that progress on the Israel-Palestinian question is possible.

Obama also said Palestinians would have to do a "better job" in providing security guarantees and called on Arab states to be "bolder" in moving towards normalisation with Israel.

"I want to make it clear that we don't want to govern the Palestinians, we want to live in peace with them," Netanyahu said.

The creation alongside Israel of a Palestinian state has been at the basis of all peace initiatives over nearly two decades. 

In response to Netanyahu omitting to utter the words "Palestinian State", Palestinian senior peace negotiator, Saeb Erakat commented that, "calling for negotiations without a clearly defined end-goal offers only the promise of more process, not progress".

Obama defended his outreach strategy towards Iran, while Netanyahu voiced fears that a nuclear-armed Tehran could be fatal for Israel.

Obama said he anticipated little headway in diplomacy with Tehran until after June's Iranian elections, but expected to know by the end of the year whether Iran was making "a good faith effort to resolve differences".

Netanyahu, speaking separately to reporters, insisted that "Israel reserves its right to defend itself".

But he added, "I hope the President's plan succeeds ... what is important is ... that Iran does not develop military nuclear capability."

Netanyahu later met with Obama's National Security Advisor James Jones before having a working dinner with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

Since his inauguration in January this year, Obama has met a number of actors in the Middle East peace and conflict situation.

He has already hosted Jordan's King Abdullah II and will meet Egypt's President Hosni Mubarak and Palestinian leader Mahmud Abbas next week.