Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman says there is no chance of establishing an independent Palestinian state within the next two years. Lieberman says he is an "optimistic" person but does not believe there is a possibility of Palestinian statehood by 2012 - a target date set by international negotiators.
Lieberman commented Tuesday, ahead of U.S. envoy George Mitchell's return to the region to mediate another round of indirect peace talks between Israelis and Palestinians.
The comments were criticized by a spokesman for Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, who said Lieberman is defying international peace efforts.
Lieberman's remarks followed a meeting with his Russia counterpart, Sergei Lavrov. Russia is part of the "Quartet" of Middle East peace brokers that also includes the United States, United Nations and European Union.
The Palestinians want a state in areas that Israel captured in the 1967 Arab-Israeli War, with East Jerusalem as their capital. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has accepted the idea of a Palestinian state, but with strict conditions, and without Palestinian control of East Jerusalem.
Some information for this report was provided by AP and Reuters.