Israel’s Foreign Minister has delivered a blow to hopes of an independent Palestinian state in the near future.
Avigdor Lieberman said: “There is absolutely no chance of it before the year 2012”.
He said: "One can dream and imagine, but we are far from reaching an agreement."
Mr Lieberman said it is time for the Palestinians to make moves towards peace, as Israel had already made many steps.
Mr Lieberman made the comments following a tense meeting in Jerusalem with his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov, during which the two clashed over Russia’s attempts to engage Hamas in peace talks.
Mr Lieberman made clear that he considered indirect negotiations with the Palestinians, not direct talks with Hamas, a crucial starting point.
But Mr Lavrov, who was in Israel on an official trip, reportedly argued that Hamas should be involved because of the militant organisations popularity with Palestinians.
In a subsequent press conference the Russian minister stood firm. He said: "Russia is doing the right thing by contacting Hamas. Doing nothing would help no one."
He added that in talks with Hamas Russia had “tried to convince them to switch to the political track, and support the Arab peace initiative.”
Mr Lavrov also cautioned that without political progress “extremist elements in the Palestinian nation will be strengthened”.