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22 Sep, 2009 18:33

Low expectations proven true at Obama-Netanyahu-Abbas summit

U.S. President Barack Obama met with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas on Tuesday in an effort to revive stalled peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians.

The three-way meeting has taken place at a New York City hotel on the sidelines of this week's annual UN General Assembly meeting.

It was the first time the Israeli premier and the Palestinian leader have met face to face since the peace talks were suspended last December. The peace process stalled following Israel’s offensive against Gaza.

President Barack Obama urged the Israeli and Palestinian leaders to do more to make peace talks possible.

Obama said, at the start of the trilateral talks Monday, that the sides have made some progress but have much further to go. He told both leaders that it's time to find a way to break the deadlock, the Associated Press reports.

However, the meeting produced very little progress. From the start, the meeting was considered more of a symbolic gesture.

Ahead of the talks, sources in both the Israeli and American government – Israel's main strategic ally – said they did not expect much progress from the event, according to Israeli media.

“We have no grand expectations out of one meeting,” Haaretz newspaper quoted White House spokesman Robert Gibbs as saying.

The issue of the construction of Jewish settlements in the West Bank remains the main obstacle to reviving peace talks between Israelis and Palestinians.

Abbas is refusing to renew negotiations with Tel-Aviv without an Israeli settlement freeze, as mandated by a US-backed peace plan.

Israel, for its part, is not ready to freeze construction work for more than a nine month period.

Meanwhile, the Associated Press is quoting Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri as having said that the meeting “gives cover to America's failure in the negotiation process in the region” and “to the continuation of settlement on Palestinian land.”

But the mini-summit indicated that President Obama remains committed to the issue, though no progress has been made, former Arab League ambassador to the United States and the United Nations, Clovis Maksoud, told RT.

“He is not failing, but he is not succeeding,”
says Mr. Maksoud, “because if he considers that freezing settlements is a sop for the Palestinians, it’s not correct, it’s counterproductive and it doesn’t acknowledge that settlements are illegal.”