May 19, 2011 / 9:47 PM / 8 years ago

Egypt welcomes Obama support for '67 Israel border

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Egypt’s U.N. envoy on Thursday welcomed U.S. President Barack Obama’s support for a Palestinian state based on Israel’s 1967 borders, though he said it lacked specifics on how to restart peace talks.

Setting out the principles of a peace agreement, Obama reaffirmed the U.S. commitment to Israel’s security. He called for a peace deal resulting in two states, Israel and Palestine, sharing the border that existed before Israel captured the West Bank in the 1967 Middle East war.

“What is positive about (Obama’s speech) is the emphasis on the 1967 borders,” Egypt’s long-serving U.N. Ambassador Maged Abdelaziz told reporters in his first formal press briefing since upheavals in Egypt and elsewhere in the Arab world.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said a peace plan based on the 1967 borders would leave the Jewish state “indefensible.”

Although Obama condemned the Palestinians’ plan to seek U.N. General Assembly recognition for statehood, Abdelaziz said his emphasis on the 1967 borders was consistent with the Palestinians’ drive to get as many countries as possible to recognize a Palestinian state based on adjusted 1967 borders.

Abdelaziz was referring to Obama’s call for a peace deal that includes “mutually agreed land swaps.” In their drive to get as many countries as possible to recognize them before the General Assembly meets in September, the Palestinians have secured 112 recognitions and expect more soon, he said.

Obama condemned what he called “symbolic actions to isolate Israel at the United Nations.”

Abdelaziz said it was disappointing that Obama did not offer a formal peace plan. “We expected to hear more from the president on this,” he said.

“The remarks of the president were limited to only two of the six core issues ... borders and security,” he said. “There was no touching on other important issues.”

He said the other core issues included Israeli settlements on Palestinian territory, water rights, ending the conflict, and the right of return of Palestinian refugees.

On the issue of the Egypt-brokered unity deal between Hamas militants who run the Gaza Strip and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’ Fatah, which controls the West Bank, Abdelaziz said Cairo has considerable leverage with Hamas.

That leverage includes Egypt’s control of its border with Gaza, he said. He added that Egypt was pushing Hamas to take “a positive position” on Israel, including eventual recognition of its right to exist. He said such changes would take time.

Hamas refuses to recognize Israel’s right to exist, which is why the Israeli government says a Palestinian unity government that includes Hamas cannot be a peace partner.

Editing by Mohammad Zargham

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