Efforts to revive Middle East peace talks have so far failed to bear any result, says US Assistant Secretary of State William Burns.
"I wish I could stand before you today and point to substantial progress toward our goals, (but) I can not," Burns confessed in a Middle East Institute conference on Tuesday.
He however stressed that the administration of President Barack Obama would stay committed to a two-state solution regarding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, while reiterating that a freeze on Israel’s settlement activities remained the US position on the issue.
"We do not accept the legitimacy of continued Israeli settlements," Burns told journalists admitting that Israel "obviously fell short of the continuing roadmap obligation for a full settlement freeze".
Burns made the comments a day after Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met at the White House. Reports of divisions among the two leaders have surfaced.
Netanyahu, whose right-leaning coalition includes pro-settler parties, has resisted Obama’s call for a total freeze on the illegal construction of settlements in the occupied West Bank — which Palestinians consider as a pre-condition for resuming peace talks.
On Tuesday, close aides to Acting Palestinian Authority Chief Mahmoud Abbas said he could resign, if the US fails to pile more pressure on Israel to meet the Palestinians’ demand.
Obama set Middle East peace as a top priority at the start of his presidency in January, in contrast to his predecessor George W. Bush, who was criticized internationally for neglecting the long-running conflict.
However, the new administration has little to show for its efforts so far.
Israeli settlements are widely considered to be the main hurdle in the way of comprehensive Israeli-Palestinian peace talks.
Under the 2002 Roadmap for Peace plan brokered by the United States, the European Union, the United Nations, and Russia, Israel has to ‘dismantle settlement outposts erected since 2001 and also freeze all settlement activities’.