Gaza violence makes achieving Palestinian-Israeli political solution key – US


Washington : The latest outbreak of violence that has left more than 100 dead in Gaza emphasizes the importance of achieving a political solution to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, U.S. State Department deputy spokesman Tom Casey said on Monday.

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With Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice en route to the region, Casey said she will shortly “get a first-hand understanding of the situation there.” Rice this week plans to meet with Egyptian, Israeli and Palestinian officials.

Her latest trip to the region comes amid the backdrop of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas having suspending Palestinian peace talks with Israel following a spasm of violence in Gaza. More than 100 Palestinians died over the weekend from an Israeli military offensive that was launched after continued Hamas rocket strikes from Gaza into Israel.

“There needs to be a two-state solution, and there needs to be opportunity for the Palestinian people to be able to make a clear choice between the path of violence, which is all that Hamas appears to want to offer, and the pathway of peace and stability and a new relationship between Israel and the Palestinian people, which is what President Abbas and (Israeli) Prime Minister (Ehud) Olmert have pledged to achieve through the Annapolis process,” Casey said, referring to the Mideast summit held late last year in Annapolis, Maryland.

U.S. officials believe the Mideast peace process “can and will move forward, ” Casey said during a department briefing. “We think it is important that negotiations do resume as quickly as possible, and we believe it is still possible for the parties to be able to achieve the basic agreement that they laid out for themselves as a goal at Annapolis”.

Earlier on Monday, deputy White House press secretary Gordon Johndroe said, “The number one thing that has to happen is Hamas has got to stop targeting Israeli citizens with rockets”.

The parties then need to get back to the negotiating table and have discussions, he said.

“Ultimately, it is in the best interest of the Palestinian people and their future, and also in the best interest of the Israelis and the whole region, for these two parties to have discussions that lead to a peaceful settlement,” Johndroe said.

Told that Palestinian civilians were killed by the Israeli strikes in Gaza, Johndroe said it was “unfortunate” whenever civilians lose their lives.