US sees Mideast talks as beginning of year-long process
The Obama administration on Monday described the Middle East talks set for later this week as the "launch of a vigorous process" that could reach agreement within a year, dpa reported.
"While the parameters of an ultimate, comprehensive peace agreement are well known, we do not expect to achieve peace in one meeting," State Department spokesman PJ Crowley told reporters.
He said that the administration thinks it can reach agreement "within a one-year time frame."
Talks between Israeli Premier Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas are to take place Thursday at the US State Department, with US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and US special Mideast envoy George Mitchell.
On Wednesday, US President Barack Obama will meet separately with each leader and have dinner with them along with Jordan's King Abdullah and Egyptian President Hosny Mubarak, two key figures in the years-long peace process.
Much focus in recent days has been on whether Israel will extend its moratorium on new settlement construction when it expires September 26. Abbas has declared the negotiations will collapse if there is no extension.
White House spokesman Robert Gibbs emphasized that the current focus was on the Thursday meetings, and it was "very premature" to get ahead to September 26.
Because each side "had to take some important steps to get us to this point," Gibbs said the administration believed that both were "serious about a comprehensive peace." But he said that was not to say that "this is going to be in any way easy."
This is a crucial foreign policy week for Obama, who plans to deliver a major speech late Tuesday to mark the end of the US combat role in Iraq.