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U.S. reaffirms support for continuing Annapolis process
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09:13, December 16, 2008

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U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice voiced strong support on Monday for continuing the Annapolis process launched late last year to restart peace talks between Palestine and Israel toward a comprehensive agreement by the end of this year.

Rice made the remarks at a press conference held at UN Headquarters after she took part in a meeting of the Middle East Quartet, which was also attended by UN Secretary-general Ban Ki-moon, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana.

French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner, on behalf of the rotating European Union presidency, and Quartet envoy Tony Blair, attended the meeting by video-link. The Quartet comprises the United Nations, Russia, the United States and the European Union.

A political settlement is unlikely to be achieved by the Palestinians and Israelis through the Annapolis by the end of this year as had been expected by the United States, Rice said.

"But they have achieved a good deal of progress in their negotiations," she noted. "This is the first time in almost a decade that the Palestinians and Israelis are addressing all of the core issues in a comprehensive way to try to get to a solution."

"If that process takes a little bit longer, so be it," Rice told reporters.

Rice said that the United States and Russia are co-sponsoring a draft Security Council resolution that is expected to be put to vote on Tuesday.

The purpose of the resolution is to "put the international community on record in believing the irreversibility of the Annapolis process, bilateral negotiations toward a two-state solution and a comprehensive solution," she said.

It calls for the "the continuation of the process to the conclusion of a comprehensive agreement and also within the context of a broader Israeli-Arab peace," she noted.

"That would add the voice of the international community to its most powerful and most consequential body, that is the Security Council, to establish the Annapolis process as the way forward," she added.

Israeli and Palestinian leaders agreed last November at a U.S.-hosted international conference in Maryland's Annapolis to relaunch the stalled peace talks aimed to hammer out a comprehensive peace treaty by the end of 2008. However, since Annapolis, the Israeli-Palestinian peace talks have made little substantial progress due to deep rifts on sensitive issues.


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