UK calls for U.S. focus on Israel-Palestinian issue

LONDON Sun Nov 25, 2012 8:33pm IST

British Foreign Secretary William Hague speaks during a news conference on the continuing situation in Syria at the United Nations headquarters in New York, August 30, 2012. REUTERS/Mark Garten - United Nations/Handout/Files

British Foreign Secretary William Hague speaks during a news conference on the continuing situation in Syria at the United Nations headquarters in New York, August 30, 2012.

Credit: Reuters/Mark Garten - United Nations/Handout/Files

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LONDON (Reuters) - British Foreign Secretary William Hague on Sunday urged the United States to take a more active role in seeking a lasting settlement between Israelis and Palestinians, warning of a "final chance" for a two-state solution.

Eight days of fighting between Israel and Palestinians in the Hamas-ruled enclave of Gaza diverted U.S. President Barack Obama's attention to the Middle East as he toured Asia on his first trip abroad after this month's election.

Hague told the BBC it was "time for a huge effort on the Middle East peace process".

"This is what I have been calling for, particularly calling for the United States now after their election to show the necessary leadership on this over the coming months, because they have crucial leverage with Israel and no other country has," Hague said.

"We're coming to the final chance maybe for a two state solution for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict," he added.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton broke off from Obama's tour of Asia to help negotiate a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas to end this month's bout violence.

Recent U.S. efforts to coax the Palestinians and Israelis back into negotiations to agree a long term peace have failed, and talks are set become even more fraught if the Palestinians succeed in securing recognition as an "observer state".

A vote on the diplomatic upgrade could take place later this month at the U.N. General Assembly, and if successful would implicitly recognise Palestinian statehood. Israel and the United States oppose the move and call for a return to talks.

The last direct negotiations between Israel and Palestinian leaders in the occupied West Bank broke down in 2010 over the issue of Jewish settlement building across the territory.

Britain has also been pushing the United States, a close ally, to take a bigger role in helping to end the conflict in Syria, with Prime Minister David Cameron calling for greater engagement within hours of Obama's re-election.

(Reporting by Mohammed Abbas; Editing by Alison Williams)

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