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No Palestinian state in next two years: Lieberman

Wednesday, June 30, 2010 01:33:22 PM, Agencies

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Jerusalem: No Palestinian state will be founded in the next two years, Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman said Tuesday, citing difficulties in US-mediated peace negotiations as well as divisions among the Palestinians.

Lieberman was referring to a call by the "Quartet" of Middle East peace brokers — Russia, the United States, European Union and United Nations — for an accord to be in place by 2012.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who launched indirect talks with the Palestinians in May, has accepted their demand for statehood while insisting any state be shorn of some powers and sovereignty over all of the occupied West Bank. The US-backed administration of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas also faces opposition from Hamas which controls the Gaza Strip.

"I'm an optimistic person, and I don't see any chance of a Palestinian state arising before 2012," Lieberman, a far-rightist in Netanyahu's conservative coalition government, told reporters after meeting his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov.

"One can dream, and imagine, but the reality on the ground is that we are still a long way from reaching understandings and agreements on the creation of a Palestinian state by 2012," Lieberman said.

Abbas, speaking in the West Bank town of Ramallah, said he hoped to achieve a peace deal "as soon as possible," adding that Palestinians would do "whatever we can in order to reach the (two-state) solution because time is on no one's side."

Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad has said Palestinians could declare statehood unilaterally if the diplomatic deadlock continues, though Abbas has played down this possibility.

Lavrov defended Russia's policy of openly engaging with Hamas, unlike other Quartet partners.

"In all our talks with Hamas, we have tried to convince them to switch to the political track and support the Arab peace initiative," Lavrov said.

The Russian foreign minister later went to Ramallah and said the Palestinians will soon receive 50 Russian-made armored vehicles that have been held up in Jordan. "We have sent the Palestinians 50 armored vehicles, they have arrived in Jordan, and we hope that they will arrive here in the next few days," he told reporters. Lavrov spoke after meeting with Abbas.

The Israeli Defense Ministry and military would not immediately comment on the remarks.

In 2008 Israel authorized the provision of the vehicles, to be supplied by the Russian Defense Ministry, but their delivery has been repeatedly delayed.

They were to arrive in two shipments of 25 each, but Israel reserved the right to veto the second shipment if it feared they would fall into the hands of extremists, a provision agreed to after Hamas took over Gaza in June 2007.

Israel held up the first shipment in December 2007 when the Palestinians requested that the vehicles be equipped with heavy machine guns.





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