Clinton warns of "last chance" for peace in Mideast

Clinton warns of "last chance" for peace in Mideast

US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton warned that this week's restarted direct Mideast peace talks could be "the last chance for a very long time" to resolve the conflict, DPA reported.

There is no plan B if these talks fail, Clinton said in a joint interview Friday with Palestine TV and Israel's Channel 2 television.

"Otherwise, I see, unfortunately, the forces of destruction, the forces of negativity on both sides gaining strength," she said.

Time is running out for both the Israelis and Palestinians to achieve peace and security, the top US diplomat said, according to a transcript of the interview released by the State Department.

Both sides involved in the talks and much of the Arab world were being increasingly threatened by terrorists who are being supported by Iran, she said.

"They have a sponsor, namely Iran, who is very much behind a lot of what they're doing," she said.

Before the first direct talks between the Palestinian and Israeli governments in nearly two years began Thursday in Washington, sources involved in the negotiations said the threat from Iran was named as a possible reason why the latest attempt at Mideast peace could succeed.

Clinton said in the interview that she was confident Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu could reach a peace deal that would see the establishment of a Palestinian state.

"They have, in my presence, been very clear that they want to work extremely hard to get to a final agreement," she said.

"The United States wants to weigh in on the side of leaders and people who see this as maybe the last chance for a very long time to resolve this" conflict," Clinton said.

"I cannot take an eraser to the history books and change everything that has happened between you for so many years, but what we can do is offer a different future," she said.

On Thursday, Netanyahu and Abbas pledged to reach a peace agreement in a year's time.

A second round of talks is to be held September 14-15 in the Middle East, possibly Egypt, and Clinton and US Middle East envoy George Mitchell are to attend. Negotiations are to continue every two weeks thereafter.

The main sticking points of the talks were seen as the borders of a future Palestinian state and Palestinian demands for a return of millions of refugees. Other hurdles include the status of Jerusalem and Jewish settlements in the Palestinian territories.

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