JEDDAH, Saudi Arabia, (Reuters) – U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice on Tuesday called on Palestinians to stop internal fighting that has killed 12 people in the last two days, complicating Israeli-Palestinian peace efforts.
But Saudi Foreign Minister Saud al-Faisal, speaking at a joint news conference with Rice, said the U.S. administration should help restart peace talks to end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, which he said was a festering wound in Middle East.
“Innocent Palestinians are caught … in the crossfire and we urge all parties to stop,” Rice said, when asked about fighting between Palestinian factions.
Clashes between forces loyal to the Palestinian government led by Islamist group Hamas and the Fatah movement of President Mahmoud Abbas have left 12 dead and over 100 wounded.
Palestinians are engaged in a wider struggle to set up a state in territories seized by Israel in a 1967 Middle East war where Israel has allowed them a form of self-rule.
But peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians have run into the ground in recent years after the Palestinians began an uprising against Israeli occupation in 2000.
The Saudi foreign minister described the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as a “core problem” and a “disease” that was encouraging violence in the region and expressed hope that Washington, Israel’s key ally, would help restart talks.
“It is the hope that … the United States … will restart the peace process and lead the region to peace and stability,” he said.
Washington’s leading Arab allies, Egypt, Jordan and Saudi Arabia, have launched a diplomatic campaign to restart talks, but U.S. backing is key to any such effort.
Rice, who goes on to visit Egypt, Israel and the Palestinian territories, said the Palestinians needed a government committed to already existing international frameworks for peace talks, including recognising Israel and renouncing use of violence.
“The answer politically is for the Palestinians to find a … government that is committed to the principles outlined by the Quartet,” she said, referring to the group comprised of the United States, United Nations, European Union and Russia.