Israel and the United States must think and act together to face the changes sweeping the Middle East, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said today after meeting President Shimon Peres.
Clinton, who arrived late on Sunday after two days of talks with the new leadership in Egypt, hailed a “moment of great change and transformation in the region.”
“It is a time of uncertainty but also of opportunity. It is a chance to advance our shared goals of security, stability, peace and democracy,” she said after talks with Peres focusing on Egypt, Syria, Iran’s nuclear programme and peace efforts with the Palestinians.
“It is in moments like these that friends like us have to think together, act together,” she said.
On the last leg of a 13-day, nine-nation tour, Clinton held talks with her Israeli counterpart Avigdor Lieberman as well as with Peres and Defence Minister Ehud Barak.
She updated each of them on her discussions with Egypt’s newly elected President Mohamed Morsi and military leader Field Marshal Hussein Tantawi.
And she was expected to meet Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu before heading back to Washington.
“Your visit comes at an extremely interesting time, the whole Middle East is going through a major transition,” Barak told her at the outset of their talks at the David’s Citadel hotel in Jerusalem.
In response, Clinton reiterated the need for Israel and Washington to work together.
“We are at a time of such historic change, really unprecedented, and we have to work together to face challenges and to hopefully seize some of the opportunities,” she told him in brief remarks to the press.
During the meeting with Peres, Clinton updated him on “the latest developments and the approaches of the new Egyptian leadership, and stressed the importance of strengthening the relations between Israel and Egypt and maintaining the peace between the countries,” the president’s office said.
“We appreciate very much that immediately after Egypt, you came to us with your latest impressions because for us, as well as for the United States, Egypt is a key country in the Middle East and much depends on Egypt and a little bit on us as well, to continue the great march of peace,” Peres said in remarks to the press.
During her visit, Clinton was to reassure the Israelis that Egypt’s new leadership had reaffirmed support for the 1979 peace treaty between the two countries — which she has repeatedly referred to as “the cornerstone” of regional security.
There has been some concern in Israel that Morsi, who emerged out of the Islamist Muslim Brotherhood, might seek to renegotiate the treaty.
Clinton and Peres also discussed Iran’s nuclear programme which Israel, Washington and much of the West believes is a cover for a weapons drive. Tehran flatly denies the charge.
Israel says a nuclear Iran would pose an existential threat to the Jewish state and has refused to rule out a military strike on its nuclear facilities.
Clinton said the Obama administration was “committed to building and maintaining a wide coalition to deny Iran the ability to acquire nuclear weapons,” and pledged that the tough economic sanctions imposed on Tehran “will continue to become harsher,” Peres’s office said.
Peres, who is known to favour diplomacy over the idea of a military strike, expressed confidence in Washington’s tough stance, saying that sanctions “are beginning to have their impact and they are the right start.”
“We appreciate very much your position. We trust its depth and dedication and determination and we feel partners of this coalition,” he told her.
The two also discussed diplomatic efforts to end the bloodshed in Syria and the deadlock in efforts to restart peace negotiations with the Palestinians.
Also participating in Monday’s talks were Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs Wendy Sherman, who represents Washington at the talks between world powers and Iran, and US Middle East envoy David Hale.
Clinton also met Palestinian prime minister Salam Fayyad, but there was no immediate comment from either side on the meeting. She had met Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas in Paris on July 6, at the start of her trip.
Devising ways to restart the moribund peace process was also high on the agenda, following nearly two years of stalemate sparked by an intractable dispute over Jewish settlement building on land the Palestinians want for a future state.
“Obviously, every day that goes by where there is not a peace agreement is a day, that leaves us unsatisfied,” a State Department official told reporters late on Sunday ahead of the talks.
This article is syndicated from AFP and is reposted here with permission. Copyright 2012 AFP