Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Wednesday the Obama administration will soon present "very specific proposals" to Israel and the Palestinians on how to advance toward a two-state solution to the Middle East conflict.
She spoke after meeting with Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit, who warned that further delay in peacemaking will cause difficulties extending beyond the Middle East.
Clinton spoke amid a flurry of U.S. diplomacy on the Middle East, with U.S. envoy George Mitchell holding closed-door talks in London this week with senior Israeli officials, and President Obama preparing to meet Thursday with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.
Though Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who visited the White House last week, has not embraced full Palestinian statehood, Clinton said at a joint news event with her Egyptian counterpart that she and President Obama are fully committed to a two-state solution and see Egypt as an essential partner in helping realize that vision.
Clinton said the administration is preparing very specific proposals for the two principles, and indicated it will ask Arab states in the region for confidence-building steps with Israel to improve the atmosphere for negotiations. Under questioning, she said the administration wants to see a complete halt to West Bank settlement building by Israel. "The President was very clear when Prime Minister Netanyahu was here. He wants to see a stop to settlements. Not some settlements. Not outposts. Not natural-growth exceptions," she stressed. "We think it is in the best interest of the effort that we are engaged in that settlement expansion cease. That is our position, that is what we have communicated very clearly not only to the Israelis but to the Palestinians and others," she said.
Foreign Minister Aboul Gheit came to Washington as a stand-in for Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, who canceled a planned White House visit earlier this week because of the recent death of his grandson.
The Egyptian Minister, alluding to Israeli suggestions that the Iranian nuclear program is the region's major problem, said he and Clinton discussed Iran but that the Palestinian question is the core issue and that continued inaction on it would pose dangers beyond the Middle East.
"In the absence of such negotiations, and success of the negotiations and seeing the emergence of Palestinian state living side-by-side with Israel, then I think situation will worsen in this part of the world and we will be, all of us, not only people in the region but countries in the region but also the United States and the Western world as well as the world at large-we will be all witnessing a very difficult situation," he said.
Clinton and her Egyptian counterpart discussed plans for President Obama's visit next week to Cairo, where he will deliver a long-anticipated policy address June 4 urging reconciliation among Muslim states and the west. The President will make a brief stop in Saudi Arabia the day before to discuss regional peace efforts with King Abdullah.