Middle East

Obama: US will persist with Middle East peace effort

US President Barack Obama in Seoul (25 April 2014) Image copyright AP
Image caption Mr Obama said peace will only come when both sides make "difficult political compromises"

The US will not abandon its peace efforts with Israel and the Palestinians, despite the breakdown of current talks, Barack Obama has said.

President Obama lamented that "neither side had political will to make tough decisions" and that there may need to be a pause in the process.

Mr Obama said Washington would continue to offer "constructive approaches".

It comes after Israel suspended talks, demanding the annulment of a unity deal between rival Palestinian factions.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas' Fatah party and Hamas signed a reconciliation agreement on Tuesday, with the aim of forming a unity government in the coming weeks.

Hamas rejects Israel's right to exist and is designated a terrorist group by the US, EU, Israel and other countries.

'Maximalist positions'

Speaking in the South Korean capital, Seoul, Mr Obama said that the unity deal was "unhelpful".

He said the pact was "just one of a series of choices that both the Israelis and Palestinians have made that are not conducive to trying to resolve the crisis".

"Folks can posture, folks can cling to maximalist positions, but realistically there is one door and that is the two parties getting together and making some very difficult political compromises in order to secure the future of both Israelis and Palestinians for future generations," he said.

"Do I expect that they will walk through that door next week, next month or even in the course of the next six months? No.''

On Thursday Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told the BBC that Mr Abbas must choose between continuing with the pact with Fatah or continuing with efforts to secure peace,

"He [Mahmoud Abbas] can have peace with Israel or a pact with Hamas - he can't have both," he said.

President Abbas though said there was "no incompatibility between reconciliation and the talks" and that he was committed to peace on the basis of a two-state solution.

Fatah and Hamas have been at odds since Hamas, which won parliamentary elections in 2006, ousted Fatah forces in the Gaza Strip during clashes in 2007 and set up a rival government.