Obama meets Peres

May 6, 2009 12:00 am

, WASHINGTON, May 6 – US President Barack Obama met Israel’s President Shimon Peres at the White House on Tuesday amid signs of divisions between the two allies on Middle East peace talks and how to deal with Iran.

Peres, whose post is mostly ceremonial and who is the top Israeli to meet Obama since his inauguration in January, called at the White House several weeks before Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is due in Washington.

He said Netanyahu had signed up to the commitments of the US-backed "road-map" when asked by reporters about the new Israeli administration’s failure to so far endorse a two-state solution with the Palestinians.

The veteran statesman also said that it would be the "best thing" if Obama’s attempt to engage Iran yielded results, despite suspicion in the new government over the approach.

"Mr Netanyahu said he will abide by the commitments of the previous government," Peres told reporters after he emerged from the closed-door meeting with Obama.

"The previous government accepted the road map — in the roadmap you will find the attitude to the two state solution.

Peres noted that Netanyahu had said he was ready "to negotiate right away, then he said he didn’t intend to govern the Palestinian people."

On Iran, Peres said "if one of the options of the president is to try engagement, we shall be … supporters. If it will succeed, it can be the best thing."

Obama has invited Netanyahu as well as the Palestinian and Egyptian leaders to Washington within the coming weeks.

The White House said in a statement that Obama and Peres spoke about the pursuit of peace in the Middle East and Iran’s nuclear program, and the challenges of the present perilous time in the region.

"The President looks forward to his meeting with Prime Minister Netanyahu later this month," the statement said.

Netanyahu has so far refused to publicly endorse the creation of a Palestinian state, and has insisted on centering efforts on strengthening the West Bank economy before engaging in final status negotiations.

The Obama administration remains however focused on a two-state solution and continuing the peace talks.


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