Obama visit to Israel unlikely to spur talks

US president to make his first official visit to Israel, possibly next month, but focus will be on Syria and Iran.

    Obama visit to Israel unlikely to spur talks
    Obama visited Israel as a presidential candidate in 2008, but has not returned since [EPA]

    US President Barack Obama will visit Israel on part of a regional trip this spring, but does not plan to present any new proposals to restart long-delayed talks with the Palestinians, according to the White House.

    The trip could come as early as next month, though no official date has been fixed. Obama will also stop in the occupied West Bank and Jordan.

    But the visits are likely to focus heavily on Iran's nuclear programme and the ongoing civil war in Syria, and Obama is unlikely to push heavily on resuming negotiations.

    He started his first term in 2009 with a new peace initiative, which quickly stalled over Israel's refusal to halt the growth of illegal settlements in the West Bank.

    "Any time the president and prime minister have a discussion, and certainly any time the president has a discussion with leaders of the Palestinian Authority, those issues are raised," Jay Carney, White House spokesman, said on Wednesday.

    "But that is not the purpose of the visit."

    Earlier on Wednesday, the US ambassador to Israel, Dan Shapiro, said Obama would bring an "urgent" agenda to Israel that includes the situations in Syria and Iran. The visit will be Obama's first as president to Israel.

    "The visit will be a good opportunity to reaffirm the strong and enduring bonds of friendship between Israel and the US," Shapiro said, adding that Iran and Syria would be the most important issues between the two countries.

    Israeli media reported on Tuesday that the visit is likely to come in late March.

    That should give Binyamin Netanyahu, prime minister, enough time to establish a new government.

    His Likud party won the largest bloc of seats in last month's parliamentary elections, and Netanyahu is currently in talks with other parties to form a coalition.

    Several senior Israeli politicians, including acting Knesset (parliament) Speaker Binyamin Ben-Eliezer, have urged Netanyahu to invite Obama to address the Knesset, local media reported.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera


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