US President Barack Obama and Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu have admitted to “differences” on the path to Mid-East peace, after they met in Washington.
The talks came after Mr Obama said in a key speech that any future Palestinian state must be based on the borders that existed prior to the 1967 war.
A defiant Mr Netanyahu said there may be some concessions but stressed the 1967 lines were “indefensible”.
He said that there could be no peace “based on illusions”.
“[It] will crash eventually on the rocks of Middle East reality,” Mr Netanyahu said.
After the talks, Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas urged Mr Obama to continue pressing Mr Netanyahu on the 1967 borders plan, AFP news agency reported.
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(CNN) — NATO jets pounded Libyan ports overnight, destroying eight of Moammar Gadhafi’s warships, an alliance spokesman said Friday.
NATO targeted the ships in Tripoli, Al-Khums and Sirte after it was apparent that Gadhafi’s forces were increasingly using naval vessels to launch attacks on civilians, said Mike Bracken, NATO’s military spokesman. He said Gadhafi was indiscriminately mining waters in Misrata and hampering the flow of humanitarian aid.
“He was using maritime forces to lay mines. These were legal targets,” Bracken said at a briefing in Brussels, Belgium.
He did not say whether crew members were aboard when the ships were hit.
Bracken said the NATO campaign is progressing and Gadhafi’s combat power had been severely curtailed.
Syrian security forces have killed dozens of protesters in the latest armed crackdown, witnesses told Al Jazeera.
Nine protesters were killed in Maret al-Naiman and Kafr Nabal, suburbs of Hama, nine were killed in Homs, including an 11-year-old boy, four were killed in Berze, a suburb of Damascus, and one person died in Sanamein, near Deraa, human rights activists said.
The dead included two boys, named as Aiham al-Ahmad, 11, and 16-year-old Ahmad Bakr, witnesses said.
Some activists put the death toll even higher.
Israel is prepared to make “generous” concessions for peace in the Middle East, but cannot go back to the country’s “indefensible” 1967 borders, Israeli prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu said following White House talks with Barack Obama.
Netanyahu’s comments came after Obama, the US president, had said the 1967 borders, with mutually agreed land swaps, should form the basis for a peace deal between Israel and the Palestinians, in a major speech on the Middle East on Thursday.
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“A peace based on illusions will crash upon the rocks of Middle Eastern reality. I think for peace the Palestinians will have to accept some basic realities,” Netanyahu said.
He said that a return to those borders was impossible because the region had seen “demographic changes”.
“While Israel is prepared to make generous compromises for peace, it cannot go back to 1967 borders because these borders are indefensible.”
A spokesperson for Palestinian Authority president Mahmud Abbas responded to the statements, calling on Obama to further press Israel to accept a Palestinian state based on 1967 borders.
“Netanyahu’s position is an official rejection of Mr Obama’s initiative, of international legitimacy and of international law.”
In both their statements, the leaders refused to accept Hamas at the negotiating table, following the recent Palestinian unity deal involving the group and Palestinian Authority president Mahmoud Abbas’ Fatah faction.
Netanyahu said that Abbas would have to chose between “peace with Israel and his pact with Hamas”.
He also called Hamas the “Palestinian version of Al Qaeda”.
Obama said, “It is very difficult for Israel to negotiate in a serious way with a party that refuses to acknowledge its right to exist… [Hamas] is not a partner for a significant, realistic peace process.”
But Ghazi Hamad, a Hamas spokesperson responded, saying, “Hamas is not a terrorist organization.”
“We’ve spent 20 years in negotiations. It is enough. It is enough for the Palestinians… Hamas is fighting for our people, for our homeland, for our liberation, for our dignity, for our independence.”
He also said that while a successful peace process remains to be seen, “We cannot give Israel the carte blanche that they have to enjoy the occupation… and to say we have to stop the resistance against the occupation.”
Right of return
Both Obama and Netanyahu spoke about refugees from the region, with Obama calling for a right of return for Palestinians, and Netanyahu largely focusing on Arab countries refusing support of Palestinians and restating his exclusive position.
“Palestinian refugees cannot come to Israel… It’s not going to happen”.
Reporting from Shatti Beach refugee camp in Gaza, Al Jazeera’s Nicole Johnson said, “The statement is not surprising or unexpected for Gazans… A lot of people here have lost hope of returning to what is now Israel, returning to their homes.”
She added, “People are very frustrated by the situation, but they’re also concerned with their more immediate needs”, citing unemployment and difficulty of access of resources.
The speeches at the White House came hours later than expected, possibly due to sharp disagreements between the two.
On Thursday, Obama laid down his clearest markers yet on compromises Israel should make toward peace in his speech on the ‘Arab spring’.
Among his statements were support of a two-state solution, that Palestinian territories should be demilitarised and that borders should be re-drawn as they were before Israel captured the West Bank and other Palestinian land in 1967.
That position was seen as a message that Obama expected Israel to eventually make concessions which they have resisted to date.
But before flying to the US for the talks on Friday, Netanyahu told reporters, “The viability of a Palestinian state cannot come at the expense of Israel’s existence.”
He also expressed that the U.S. government did not understand the problems Israel faced.
Quartet supports 1967 borders
Before Obama and Netanyahu made statements, the Quartet of Middle East negotiators – the United States, Russia, the European Union and the United Nations voiced strong support for Obama’s vision from his speech on Thursday.
“The Quartet agrees that moving forward on the basis of territory and security provides a foundation for Israelis and Palestinians to reach a final resolution of the conflict through serious and substantive negotiations and mutual agreement on all core issues,” the group said in a statement.
“The Quartet reiterates its strong appeal to the parties to overcome the current obstacles and resume direct bilateral negotiations without delay or preconditions,” the Quartet said.
Mahmoud Abbas’ spokesperson supported the Quartet’s statement, saying, “We call on President Obama and the Mideast Quartet (Russia, the United States, the European Union and the United Nations) to pressure Netanyahu to accept the 1967 borders.”