Clinton, Lieberman hold talks for first time in 18 months
US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman met Tuesday in Washington for their first face-to-face talks in a year and half, dpa reported.
The counterparts did not address the media, but State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said they spoke for 30 to 40 minutes on a variety of issues, including Iran, Syria and the Middle East peace process.
Lieberman had been expected to tell his hosts that just as the international community should not only impose sanctions on Syria but act to topple the regime, so it should not be satisfied with sanctions alone against Iran but act to topple its regime, an Israeli Foreign Ministry source told dpa on Sunday.
Nuland said the talks on Iran had revolved around the impact of new sanctions and "our mutual commitment to prevent Iran from getting a nuclear weapon and to increase the pressure through these sanctions."
Media reports in recent days have indicated Israel could be considering a preemptive strike against Iran's nuclear programme. US President Barack Obama in a television interview Sunday indicated that no decision had yet been made, but stressed that the US prefers a diplomatic solution even as it leaves all options open.
On the Middle East peace process, Nuland said it was unclear from the US side whether an agreement that Palestinian President Mahmoud would head an interim government between his Fatah party and the rival Hamas movement would substantially alter discussions with Israel.
Hamas and any participant in the Palestinian government must recognize Israel's right to exist, she stressed.
"They did discuss the fact that it's not particularly clear what this agreement will change," she said. "In particular, we still have President Abbas at the head of the government; we still have Prime Minister Fayyad responsible. And so, frankly, any impact this may or may not have is unclear."
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reacted to the announcement Monday by warming Abbas that he had to choose between "peace with Hamas, or peace with Israel."
Lieberman and Clinton last met in September 2010 in Jerusalem.
In June 2009, a joint news conference was tense when the two clashed over Israeli construction in West Bank settlements.
Lieberman, of the ultra-nationalist Israel Beiteinu party, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's largest coalition partner, has made himself controversial because of his outspoken and hardline statements.