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Barack Obama: US overestimated ability to influence Mideast process

US President Barack Obama said Friday he may have overestimated the influence the US could exert over the Israeli-Palestinian peace process and regretted raising expectations for meaningful talks to restart this year.

Obama, in an interview with Time Magazine, said the political situation in Israel and the Palestinian territories had made it difficult for either side to recommit to another round of talks.
"I think that we overestimated our ability to persuade them to do so when their politics ran contrary to that," Obama said. He cited Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’ problems with the Islamist group Hamas, while Israel’s hardline government under Benjamin Netanyahu was finding it difficult to offer "bold gestures".
Obama made the Middle East a top priority during his first year, appointing George Mitchell as envoy to the Middle East and pressuring Israel to halt all settlement building activity in a bid to revive the long-stalled peace talks, but to no avail.
"I think it is absolutely true that what we did this year didn’t produce the kind of breakthrough that we wanted, and if we had anticipated some of these political problems on both sides earlier, we might not have raised expectations as high," he said.
Obama promised another push for progress in 2010, insisting both sides still had a "deep-seated interest in a two-state solution".

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