|Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (R) shakes hands with visiting U.S. Vice President Joe Biden during a joint statement at Netanyahu's residence in Jerusalem, March 9, 2010. (Xinhua/GPO)
by Deng Yushan
JERUSALEM, March 9 (Xinhua) -- Visiting U.S. Vice President Joe Biden on Tuesday threw his weight behind the newly-renewed peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians, yet two newly-announced Jewish settlement expansion projects have thrown his efforts into grave doubt.
"I'm very pleased that you and the Palestinian leadership have agreed to launch indirect talks. We hope that these talks will lead and they must lead eventually to negotiations and direct discussions between the parties," said Biden at a joint press conference with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
The veep, the highest-ranking U.S. official setting foot on the volatile land since U.S. President Barack Obama took office early last year, voiced his expectations a day after Obama's special envoy George Mitchell wrapped up a series of meetings with Israeli and Palestinian leaders and officially announced that the two sides have agreed to conduct indirect negotiations with himself acting as the intermediary.
"We are at a moment of real opportunity. I hope the beginning of indirect or proximity talks is a vehicle by which we can begin to allay that layer of mistrust that has built over the last several years," Biden said earlier in the day ahead of a meeting with President Shimon Peres, adding that "the interests of both the Palestinians and the Israeli people ... are actually very much more in line than they are in opposition."
"The goal is obviously to resolve the final status issues to achieve a two-state solution with Israel and a Palestine living side by side in peace and security," he stressed, adding that this vision serves Israel's long-term security interests.
Noting that both sides have taken peace-oriented moves, including a partial freeze of settlement construction on the Israeli side and an overhaul of institutions and security forces on the Palestinian side, Biden said that "an historic peace is going to require both parties to make some historically bold commitments."
For their parts, Biden's hosts thanked the U.S. government for its peace-making efforts and reiterated Israel's commitment to reaching peace with the Palestinians and the whole Arab world.
"I'm pleased that these efforts are beginning to bear fruit and we have to be persistent and purposeful in making sure that we get to those direct negotiations that will enable us to resolve this conflict," Netanyahu said to his guest.