RAMALLAH (Reuters) – U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said on Tuesday there was a need to remain focused on establishing a Palestinian state alongside Israel despite the crisis in Lebanon.
Rice met Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas after visiting Lebanon and Israel, where she discussed the two weeks of fighting with Hizbollah guerrillas.
“Even as the Lebanon situation is resolved, we must remain focused on what is happening here, in the Palestinian territories,” Rice told a news conference. “On our desires to get back to … (the) vision of two states living side by side in peace.”
Israeli-Palestinian relations hit a new low last month when gunmen from the Gaza Strip killed two soldiers in Israel and abducted a third. That prompted an Israeli offensive which has left at least 115 Palestinians dead, but failed to secure the soldier’s release or halt rocket fire by militants.
Abbas, who has been struggling to salvage peacemaking amid resistance from the Hamas Islamists who run the Palestinian government, voiced hope that the soldier would be returned and Israel would be prompted to release Palestinian prisoners.
“We, on our side, will exert maximum effort to revive the peace process and to guarantee the release of the soldier,” he said. “We hope that Israel will realize the suffering of 10,000 Palestinian families whose sons and daughters are in Israeli jails.”
Israel has ruled out any prisoner swap.