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Palestinian leaders welcome Obama's visit

Feb. 6, 2013 7:29 P.M. (Updated: Feb. 7, 2013 7:43 P.M.)
BETHLEHEM (Ma'an) – The Palestinian leadership on Wednesday welcomed US President Barack Obama’s announced plans to visit the region in March.

President Mahmoud Abbas' spokesman Nabil Abu Rdeina told Ma'an that "the visit reflects that the US is willing to achieve peace in the region."

The Palestinian leadership, added Abu Rdeina, hopes the US efforts this time will be decisive and serious. "We wish the US administration will exert pressure on Israel to stop settlement expansion in order to lay the ground for the establishment of an independent Palestinian state on the Palestinian territory within the borders before June 4, 1967."

He added: "The visit is a positive indicator, but we need deeds and real US pressure on Israel rather than meetings. We need a new US policy."

Abu Rdeina said the Palestinians expected renewed efforts to restart the peace process following a phone call to Abbas on Monday by newly-appointed US secretary of state John Kerry.

Obama will visit the region in March to restart the Middle East peace process, an Israeli television station reported Tuesday. It would be the first visit by Obama since taking office.

PLO official Hanan Ashrawi urged the US leader to be evenhanded toward Israel and Palestine.

"We welcome President Obama's visit, if it signals an American promise to become an honest and impartial peace broker," Ashrawi said in a statement. "The US can play this positive role by engaging in an effective and constructive manner rather than by repeating the same policy of negotiations for their own sake."

Ashrawi said the visit's success would depend on Obama's willingness to confront Israel.

"Such an engagement requires decisive curbs on Israeli violations and unilateral measures, particularly settlement activity and the annexation of Jerusalem, as well as its siege and fragmentation policies," she said.

"Maintaining Israel’s impunity and sense of exceptionalism, while denying the Palestinian people’s rights to sovereignty, freedom and dignity, has been lethal to any meaningful pursuit of a viable and just peace.

"We therefore expect that this visit will rectify the failures of the past, demonstrate a newfound political will, and lead to urgent, substantive and serious action that will bring the Israeli occupation of the State of Palestine to an end."

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