Miliband and Clinton vow unity over Middle East

By Nathan Guttman, February 5, 2009
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United front: David Miliband and Hillary Clinton meet in Washington

United front: David Miliband and Hillary Clinton meet in Washington

Seeking European partnership in curbing Iran’s nuclear ambitions and promoting Israeli-Palestinian peace, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton met Foreign Secretary David Miliband this week for a discussion which focused largely on the Middle East.

“We have pledged again to join efforts to achieve a comprehensive solution to the conflict in the Middle East, and our combined effort and energies will be directed to that end,” Mrs Clinton said in a joint press conference with her British counterpart. Mr Miliband, who also met the administration’s Middle East envoy George Mitchell, said the UK was interested both in solidifying the Gaza ceasefire as well as seeking a final status solution, and “keeping alive the critically important long-term vision of two states, Israel and Palestine, living side-by-side in security, which is so essential to regional stability.”

The possibility of engaging in negotiations with Hamas or making the group part of any discussion over the future of the Middle East was not raised in the conversation, according to State Department officials. Spokesman Robert Wood said there was no change in Mrs Clinton’s views on the issue and that there was “no ambiguity” in her position toward Hamas.

The main issue on which the Obama administration is seeking European support is Iran, where the US expects its European allies to be both part of the international sanctions regime and to share the effort to reach out to the Iranians and offer them benefits in return for giving up their nuclear programme.

The administration is in the process of formulating a new policy toward Iran to include a concentrated effort to engage Iran diplomatically. This endeavor is expected to be coordinated by veteran Middle East peace negotiator Dennis Ross. Both Mr Obama and Mrs Clinton have stressed the importance of transatlantic cooperation in making the diplomatic effort work.

Last updated: 4:40pm, February 5 2009