Rice: Mideast policy didn't fail
U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice on Friday denied the Israeli-Palestinian peace process sponsored by U.S. President George W. Bush was a failure, saying it should lay the ground for an eventual deal. "We knew ... that if that agreement was not reached by the end of the year, there would be those that would say that the Annapolis process, the negotiations, had failed. In fact, it is quite the opposite," Rice told a news conference in the West Bank city of Ramallah with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.
"While we may not yet be at the finish line, I am quite certain that if Palestinians and Israelis stay on the Annapolis course, they are going to cross that finish line and can do so relatively soon," she added, according to Reuters.
The White House acknowledged for the first time on Thursday that Bush's goal of a deal on Palestinian statehood before he leaves office in January was "unlikely" to be achieved.
Barack Obama, who won the U.S. presidential election on Tuesday, takes office on Jan. 20 but it is unclear how soon he will engage in Middle East peacemaking. "We hope that the new administration will begin immediately tackling the Middle East issue so we would not waste time," Abbas told reporters.
He also said he complained to Rice about continued Israeli settlement building, "incursions" into Palestinian areas and what he called a "dangerous escalation" in attacks by Jewish settlers on Palestinian farmers during the olive harvest.
With Abbas at her side, Rice cautioned Israel about continued building activity in Jewish settlements in the occupied West Bank, calling it damaging to peace prospects.