TEL AVIV — US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton arrived in Israel late on Sunday for top-level talks with Israeli officials expected to focus on Iran's nuclear programme and the stalled peace process.
Clinton arrived on a flight from Egypt shortly after 11:30 pm (2030 GMT) for her first visit to the Jewish state in nearly two years, according to an AFP correspondent travelling with the delegation.
With her are US Middle East envoy David Hale and Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs Wendy Sherman, who represents Washington at the talks between world powers and Iran.
The whirlwind 24-hour visit comes at the tail end of an eight-nation tour spanning Europe, Asia and the Middle East. It will see Clinton holding talks with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, President Shimon Peres, Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman and Defence Minister Ehud Barak.
She will also meet with Palestinian prime minister Salam Fayyad, a senior State Department official travelling with the delegation said. Earlier this month, she held talks in Paris with Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas.
Talks with the Israelis were expected to take the form of a "strategic conversation" in the wake of the huge political upheaval sweeping the region and what it means for both the United States and Israel, the official said.
They were also likely to focus on efforts to regenerate peace negotiations.
"Obviously, every day that goes by where there is not a peace agreement is a day that leaves us unsatisfied," he told reporters travelling with the delegation.
"We believe that this is the sort of challenge ... that you have to keep working at in the face of challenges and setbacks.
"Of course we would have liked to have been coming on this trip to sign a peace deal. We would have liked to have done that two years ago," he said.
"The fact that we have been unable to do so is a testament to the difficulty of the challenge. But the fact that we're still at it is a testament to just how important the issue is to us, and to her personally."
During the morning, Clinton will meet first with Lieberman before holding talks with Peres.
A statement from the Israeli president's office said their meeting would focus on Israel's relations with Cairo in the wake of the election of the new Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi. It would also touch on peace talks with the Palestinians and the Iranian nuclear standoff.
During the afternoon, she will meet the Palestinian premier before sitting down with the Israeli defence minister.
In the evening she will have talks with Netanyahu, and a joint press conference is scheduled before her departure for the United States.
The last time she visited Jerusalem was in mid-September 2010 in a bid to help the parties resolve a dispute over Jewish settlement building which threatened to overturn a fresh round of direct Israel-Palestinian peace talks launched by US President Barack Obama just two weeks earlier.
The dispute over settlements proved to be the undoing of the fledgling negotiations. Talks have now been stalled for nearly two years.
Copyright © 2013 AFP. All rights reserved. More »