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US must lead Mideast peace talks: AUKMIN

22:11 Fri Jan 18 2013
AAP

The United States must be a leader in facilitating "urgent" progress for peace in the Middle East, Australian and British leaders say.

British Foreign Secretary William Hague, Australian Foreign Affairs Minister Bob Carr, British Defence Secretary Philip Hammond and Australian Defence Minister Stephen Smith issued a communique after the annual Australia/UK Ministerial (AUKMIN) summit in Perth on Friday.

They said the Palestinians and Israelis needed to sit down for "negotiations without preconditions".

Mr Carr told reporters the US needed to lead a major effort this year to achieve a negotiated two-state solution with a secure Israel alongside a Palestinian state.

"There must be an urgent, concentrated effort and only the United States has the capacity and the authority and the influence that will bring this to fruition," he said.

"But it's in the interest of the region and the interests of the world that the cycle of violence in the Middle East over Arab-Israel conflict is brought to a peaceful end."

Mr Hague said "the alignment of circumstances", including the Israeli election coming to an end next week, the US elections now over and the political situation in the Middle East becoming more difficult, meant now was the time for action.

"That requires a particularly strong international effort," he said.

"We lay no criticism or blame on previous attempts that have not been successful - it's been right to attempt it - but I do think it requires the US administration to be a strong leader and other countries to support it."

Mr Carr agreed that both countries acknowledged the "hard slog" so far but time was running out.

The UK and Australia also jointly called for the Israelis to halt settlement activity, labelling it illegal under international law and said it undermined prospects for peace.

The ministers also condemned the violence in Syria and continued to call on President Assad to step aside so that peaceful political transition could occur.

"We support the efforts of the Joint Special Representative of the UN and the Arab League, Lakhdar Brahimi, to end the violence in Syria and bring about a process of political transition," the communique said.

"We shared concerns about the stockpile of chemical weapons in Syria and agreed that any use of these weapons would be unacceptable.

"We will maintain pressure on the Assad regime never to use these weapons and to take all responsible measures to keep the weapons secure."

They also shared concerns over the nature of Iran's nuclear program and the threat it posed to regional stability and security, calling on the country to comply with resolutions of the United Nations Security Council and International Atomic Energy Agency.

Both also voted not to oppose enhanced Palestinian status in the UN and called on the Palestinian Authority to exercise restraint and avoid provocative actions at international forums.

"Australia and the United Kingdom urge the Palestinians to resolve their internal differences, unite for peace and cease acts of violence against Israel," they said in the communique.

"In particular, we call for the Palestinians to abide by the terms of the Gaza ceasefire and to stop all rocket attacks."