Sunday, October 2, 2011

U.S. defense secretary: Israel must improve its relations in the Middle East

U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta is on a trip that will take him to Israel, Egypt and Belgium
U.S. Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta warned that Israel must improve its relations with neighboring countries, saying the country is becoming increasingly isolated in the region.

Panetta made the comments ahead of his scheduled arrival Monday in Israel, where he was to meet with Israeli and Palestinian leaders in an effort to jump start peace talks.

"I don't think there is any question in talking with leaders from Israel that they recognize that they've becoming increasingly isolated in that part of the world, and that's not ... a good situation," Panetta told reporters while en route late Sunday to Israel.

"I think they recognize that it's important to do whatever they can to try to improve those relations."

Tensions in the region have been running high in recent weeks over the Palestinian Authority's bid for statehood before the United Nations, and Israel's plans to build 1,100 new homes in disputed territory in south Jerusalem.

"The important thing there is to again reaffirm our strong security relationship with Israel, to make clear that we will protect their qualitative military edge," Panetta said.

"As they take risks for peace, we will be able to provide the security that they will need in order to ensure that they can have the room hopefully to negotiate." Read More...

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