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No Palestinian state before 2012 - Israeli formin

Israel's Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman (L) and his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov hold a joint news conference after their meeting in Jerusalem June 29, 2010. REUTERS/Baz Ratner

JERUSALEM (Reuters) - No Palestinian state will be founded in the next two years, Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman said on Tuesday, citing difficulties in U.S.-mediated peace negotiations as well as divisions among the Palestinians.

Lieberman appeared to be referring to a call by the “Quartet” of Middle East peace brokers -- Russia, the United States, European Union and United Nations -- for an accord to be in place by 2012.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who launched indirect talks with the Palestinians in May, has accepted their demand for statehood while insisting any state be shorn of some powers and sovereignty over all of the occupied West Bank.

The U.S.-backed administration of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas also faces opposition from Hamas Islamists who spurn the Jewish state and control the Gaza Strip.

“I’m an optimistic person, and I don’t see any chance of a Palestinian state arising before 2012,” Lieberman, a far-rightist in Netanyahu’s conservative coalition government, told reporters after meeting Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov.

“One can dream, one and imagine, but the reality on the ground is that we are still a long way from reaching understandings and agreements on the creation of a Palestinian state by 2012,” Lieberman said.

Abbas’s prime minister, Salam Fayyad, has said Palestinians could declare statehood unilaterally if the diplomatic deadlock continues. But the Palestinian president has played down this possibility.

Russia differs from its Quartet partners in having openly engaged with Hamas.

Defending the Russian policy, Lavrov said, “In all our talks with Hamas, we have tried to convince them to switch to the political track and support the Arab peace initiative.” (Writing by Dan Williams; Editing by Louise Ireland)