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Clinton and Netanyahu talk security and peace

By the CNN Wire Staff
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Israel settlements threaten peace talks
  • NEW: U.S. commitment to security and peace in the region is 'unshakable'
  • "We are going to find a way forward," Secretary Clinton insists
  • The Israeli government says it is proceeding with plans for about 1,000 new housing units
  • The Israeli announcement was counterproductive, Clinton said Wednesday

Washington (CNN) -- Thursday's meeting between Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu about the resumption of peace talks was followed by a joint statement that said their discussion included "a friendly and productive exchange of views on both sides."

"Secretary Clinton reiterated the United States' unshakable commitment to Israel's security and to peace in the region," said the statement.

Clinton added that "the United States believes that through good-faith negotiations, the parties can mutually agree on an outcome which ends the conflict and reconciles the Palestinian goal of an independent and viable state, based on the 1967 lines, with agreed swaps, and the Israeli goal of a Jewish state with secure and recognized borders that reflect subsequent developments and meet Israeli security requirements."

The discussions "focused on creating the conditions for the resumption of direct negotiations aimed at producing a two-state solution," the statement said. "Their teams will work closely together in the coming days toward that end."

As the meeting began in New York, Clinton said, "the prime minister and [Palestinian Authority] President [Mahmoud] Abbas are both very committed to the two-state solution and we are going to find a way forward."

For his part, Netanyahu said he would like to broaden the talks to include "many other Arab countries. It is our common goal. We are quite serious about doing it and we want to get on with it."

The meeting came a day after Clinton said the United States was "deeply disappointed" with Israel's decision to build new housing units in sensitive areas of East Jerusalem.

"This announcement was counterproductive to our efforts to resume negotiations between the parties," Clinton said Wednesday, stressing that both parties should avoid actions that might undermine trust, including action in Jerusalem.

Netanyahu met Wednesday with Rep. Eric Cantor, R-Virginia, and Michael Oren, Israel's ambassador to the United States, a Cantor spokesman said Thursday.

Cantor "reiterated his belief that compromise between Israel and the Palestinians can only be achieved through direct negotiations between the parties," said the spokesman, Brad Dayspring. "A unilaterally declared Palestinian state will only create more distrust between Israel and the Palestinian Authority and move the process further away from peace," he said.

Cantor, who is Jewish, is one of the highest-ranking Republicans in the House.

Clinton's remarks Wednesday were made at a joint press briefing with Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Salam Fayyad, where she announced an additional $150 million in aid to the Palestinian Authority. Fayyad appeared at the briefing via a remote video conference from Ramallah in the West Bank.

Clinton said the United States will keep working to resume negotiations to address the housing issue, among others.

"We still believe a positive outcome is both possible and necessary," she said.

The Israeli government said Monday it is proceeding with plans for about 1,000 new housing units in East Jerusalem, a move that the chief Palestinian negotiator said would derail already suspended peace talks.

Construction of settlements in the West Bank, as well as new housing in East Jerusalem, have been criticized by the Palestinians, and such activity has been a stumbling block in the direct negotiations renewed by the Obama administration.

President Barack Obama on Tuesday criticized Israel's plans to build in the disputed area.

"This kind of activity is never helpful when it comes to peace negotiations," Obama told reporters while on a trip to Indonesia.

And Saeb Erakat, the chief Palestinian negotiator, told CNN that the announcement showed Israel is committed to the settlements at the cost of a possible peace agreement.

But Netanyahu's office issued a statement saying the construction has nothing to do with the settlement issue, since Jerusalem "is the capital of the state of Israel."

"Israel sees no link between the peace process and its development plans in Jerusalem," the statement read.

State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley said Wednesday that there is such a link, in that both parties are responsible for creating conditions for successful negotiations.

"So to suggest that this kind of announcement would not have an impact on the Palestinian side, I think, is incorrect," Crowley said.

Israel seized East Jerusalem in the 1967 Mideast War, annexed the ancient city, and established the nation's capital there. The international community, however, does not recognize Jerusalem as Israel's capital, and embassies in the country have based themselves in Tel Aviv.

Palestinians envision the eastern part of the city as their future capital in a two-state solution.

CNN's Laurie Ure and Dana Bash contributed to this story.