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Abbas asks Obama to "impose" Mideast peace solution
RAMALLAH, West Bank |
RAMALLAH, West Bank (Reuters) - Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas urged the Obama administration on Saturday to impose a solution to the Middle East conflict that would give his people an independent state.
"Mr. President (Barack Obama) and members of the American administration, since you believe in this (an independent Palestinian state), it is your duty to take steps toward a solution and to impose this solution," Abbas said in a speech.
Abbas made the remarks to members of his Fatah party in the West Bank city of Ramallah a day after talks there with Obama's Middle East envoy. George Mitchell is in the region to try to revive peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians.
"We've asked them (the Obama administration) more than once: 'Impose a solution'," Abbas said.
Mitchell told Israel and the Palestinians on Friday that Obama wants a comprehensive peace deal to be a reality soon and not in some vague and distant future time.
Pressing both sides to end a 16-month suspension of negotiations, Obama wants "proximity talks" on a deal to start within weeks. He has said peace is a vital strategic interest of the United States as it battles Islamic militants abroad.
Abbas's appeal to Obama came amid widespread media reports that the U.S. president was considering floating a proposal that would set the contours of a final peace deal.
Any such move would likely be opposed by Israel, which says only negotiations can secure a final settlement to the conflict.
Obama has been sharply at odds with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu over Israeli settlement construction in the occupied West Bank, land Palestinians want for their state, and in East Jerusalem, which Abbas wants as a future capital.
Israel captured the West Bank and East Jerusalem in the 1967 Middle East war. It considers all of Jerusalem, including the east of the city and surrounding areas, as its eternal capital --- a claim that has not won international recognition.
Abbas refuses to resume negotiations suspended in December 2008 until all settlement building stops, a position Netanyahu describes as "climbing a tree" simply to avoid peace talks.
He has ignored a partial, 10-month settlement freeze announced by Netanyahu five months ago in an attempt to lure the Palestinians back to the negotiating table.
Mitchell is seeking Netanyahu's response to Obama's request for certain confidence-building measures to persuade Abbas to start proximity talks, hoping to move to direct negotiations between the two sides in the following months.
Mitchell met Netanyahu on Friday and he is due to meet the Israeli leader again on Sunday.
(Writing by Joseph Nasr, Editing by Sonya Hepinstall)
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