Rice: Goal of talks is two states for two peoples
U.S. Sec. of State meets with Livni, Peretz, says did not come to Middle East with specific proposal.
U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, meeting Saturday with Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, said that the goal of resuming Israeli-Palestinian peace talks must be the establishment of two state for two peoples.
Rice arrived Saturday afternoon in Israel, meeting with Livni, Defense Minister Amir Peretz and Minister for Strategic Affairs Avigdor Lieberman in the first leg of a Middle East tour.
On Sunday, she will travel to Ramallah to meet with Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas.
"I think we both understand fully that both the Palestinian and Israeli people, two states living side by side in peace, it's not just a dream, it's something we must make a reality," Rice said in brief remarks with Livni before they held talks.
Lieberman told Rice that in his opinion another military confrontation in the Gaza Strip is "only a matter of time."
He said that an operation involving a simple entrance and exit would not achieve anything. In the event that Israel decides to reassert control of the Strip, he said, such a step would have to result in the deployment of 30,000 NATO troops to maintain the peace.
In a press conference with Rice before their meeting, Livni said that moderate Palestinians must be given a political horizon, adding that Israel's security must also be upheld.
The goal of any political process, she stated, must be the establishment of two states for two peoples.
Rice agreed with that statement, adding that she believes that most Palestinians want to live in a place where their children can live in peace and security.
Israeli officials said Livni and Rice had discussed the possibility of creating a Palestinian state with temporary borders following the line of a barrier Israel is building in and around the West Bank.
One senior Israeli official said Rice wanted to discuss some of the most sensitive issues, including the future of Jerusalem, with both sides "in order to see if there's space for progress on a Palestinian state in the next two years".
Rice said she and Livni would discuss the Iranian nuclear threat, as well as the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the future of the road map.
Before landing in Israel, Rice said she would not be arriving with a specific plan for resuming talks.
"I am not coming with a proposal. I am not coming with a plan," she told journalists accompanying her during a stopover in Shannon, Ireland.
"I have as an academic spent a good deal of time reading about past efforts to try and make progress on the Israeli-Palestinian issue and a couple of things are crystal clear: if you don't lay ground work very well, it is not going to succeed," she said.
"And I think no plan can be 'made in America.' There are too many important stakeholders and any progress on the Israeli-Palestinian front is going to require all of the parties."
The Bush administration has asked Congress to authorize $86 million in military aid to boost security forces loyal to Abbas.
Asked whether this initiative would increase tensions between the rival Palestinian factions, Rice noted that the radical movement Hamas, which the United States and the European Union list as a terrorist organization, is also armed.
"One thing is certain: Hamas is armed and the worst outcome would be that the Palestinians who are, in fact, devoted to the road map ... are the ones who are unarmed."
Rice's weeklong tour of the Middle East and Europe will also take her to Jordan, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Germany and Britain.
Abbas discusses Fatah-Hamas conflict with AbdullahEarlier Saturday, Abbas arrived in Amman for talks with Jordan's King Abdullah II on the prospects of bridging the gap between Fatah and the ruling Hamas movement, Palestinian sources said.
The discussions were also expected to touch on a previous Jordanian invitation for Abbas and the Palestinian Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh to meet in Amman in a bid to end their power struggle and prevent the situation from sliding into a civil war, Palestinian sources said.
Meanwhile, a top aide to Abbas on Friday ruled out the possibility of holding talks between Abbas and Prime Minister Ehud Olmert in Rice's presence.
Saeb Erekat told the media that Rice's agenda during her Mideast trip would not include talks on setting up a Palestinian state.
He noted, however, that there are contacts going on between Palestinian and Israeli officials, and added that meetings within the framework of the two sides' sub-committees would be resumed soon.
A Jordanian newspaper reported Friday that Abbas plans to propose a Palestinian state that uses the West Bank separation fence as a temporary border when he meets with Rice, Israel Radio reported.
Abbas told the Addustour newspaper that he expected Rice to present him with several new ideas, the radio said.
Rice to meet with Merkel next week over new peace effortsRice is scheduled to meet with German Chancellor Angela Merkel next Thursday to discuss peace efforts.
"Secretary Rice will, as announced last week, inform about the outcome of her trip to the Mideast," spokesman Ulrich Wilhelm said during the regular German government press conference on Friday.
The meeting scheduled for Thursday in Berlin follows Merkel's visit to Washington earlier this month, at which she urged Bush to help revive efforts by the so-called quartet - the U.S., EU, UN and Russia - to push for a solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Earlier this week, State Department officials sought to temper expectations of any major breakthroughs on the trip, which will include stops in Israel, the Palestinian territories, Jordan, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Germany and Britain.
"I would expect that this is a trip that is more about laying the foundations for potential future actions than actually coming to closure on any particular agreements," said State Department spokesman Sean McCormack.
Rice, who is due back in Washington on January 19, also plans to travel to Paris later this month for an international donors conference on Lebanon, said McCormack. Beirut hopes it will raise $4 billion to help its economy recover from this summer's war in Lebanon.
Officials said Rice would focus on three issues during this week's trip: making progress on Israeli-Palestinian peace, promoting stability in Lebanon and finding ways to help the Iraqi government achieve more stability.
During her stopover in Kuwait, Rice is expected to meet ministers from the Gulf Cooperation Council plus Egypt and Jordan to discuss Iraq and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, as well as Iran and Syria.
Middle East analysts are skeptical of any real progress on the Israeli-Palestinian issue until the standoff between Abbas and Haniyeh is resolved.
Abbas met with Prime Minister Ehud Olmert met on December 23 and agreed to try to revive peace negotiations that collapsed in 2000. Hamas has refused to recognize Israel's right to exist, to respect past peace deals or to renounce violence - three conditions for ending a Western aid boycott.
Washington wants Israel and the Palestinians to return to the U.S.-sponsored roadmap peace plan. The United States also plans to provide more funding to boost Abbas' security forces.
Rice was last in the region early December, when she said after meeting Abbas and Olmert separately that she saw a "little opening" for reviving talks.
McCormack said the United States still believed that an opening existed and Rice would focus on how to exploit that and to "help the forces of moderation" in the region.