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Clinton speech to put onus on Israel, Palestinians
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will tell Israel and the Palestinians on Friday it is up to them to settle their conflict and urge them to get to work on its core issues, her spokesman said on Friday.
Clinton is scheduled to give a speech at 8 p.m./0100 GMT on Saturday that will be scrutinized for how the United States hopes to promote a Middle East peace deal after its failure to sustain direct talks that began and ended in September.
This week, the United States abandoned its push to persuade Israel to extend a partial freeze on the construction of Jewish settlements on land that it occupied in a 1967 war and that the Palestinians want for a state.
While Obama opened fresh direct negotiations in September, the Palestinians left the talks only three weeks later when the Israelis refused to extend the partial settlement freeze.
The most likely next step is that Washington will try to revive indirect talks, shuttling between the two sides to seek progress on such issues as borders and security and to build confidence toward resuming direct negotiations.
"She'll call on both sides ...to begin to grapple with the core issues of the conflict: borders, security, refugees, settlements, water and Jerusalem," State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley told reporters.
"She will make clear that the United States remains committed to this process, but that responsibility to end the conflict ultimately rests with the parties themselves," he added.
Clinton, who has met the chief Israeli and Palestinian peace negotiators in the last two days, will lay out in her speech what steps Washington wants them to take in the coming weeks and months, Crowley said without providing details.
Having declared that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict was a priority for his administration from his first days in office, U.S. President Barack Obama finds himself with little to show for his efforts nearly half way through his four-year term.
Clinton, who sat down with Israeli chief negotiator Yitzhak Molho on Thursday, met separately with Palestinian chief negotiator Saeb Erekat and with former Israeli foreign Minister Tzipi Livni Friday, the State Department said.
She was to meet Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad as well as Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak later in the day before her speech at a conference sponsored by the Brookings Institution's Saban Center for Middle East Policy.
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