US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said in Jerusalem on Tuesday during Israel's conflict in Gaza that Washington's commitment to the Jewish state's security remains "rock solid."
But Clinton also stressed that Washington expected a quick de-escalation to a seven-day conflict that has shaken the already volatile region, and now threatens to spill over into an all-out ground war.
"The American commitment to Israel's security is rock solid and unwavering," Clinton said at a brief press appearance with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu before the two entered closed-door talks.
"That is why we believe it is essential to de-escalate the situation" in the Palestinian territory, said Clinton, who welcomed Egyptian mediation efforts.
Clinton spoke only moments into a regional tour that will take her Wednesday to the West Bank city of Ramallah, and on to Cairo for talks with Egypt's President Mohamed Morsi.
Her arrival in Jerusalem coincided with furious speculation that a Gaza truce announcement by the two sides was in the works and could come as early as late Tuesday.
But Clinton made no reference to an agreement, and indicated that she expected negotiations to stretch over several days.
"In these days ahead, the United States will work with our partners here in Israel and across the region for an outcome that bolsters security for the peace of Israel, improves conditions for the people of Gaza and moves toward a comprehensive peace for all people of the region," said Clinton.
She also reaffirmed Washington's message that much of the onus rested on a Hamas leadership which rules Gaza but is officially branded a terrorist network by the United States.
"The rocket attacks from terrorist organisations inside Gaza on these (Israeli) cities and towns must end and a broader calm restored," said Clinton.
"The goal must be a durable outcome that promotes regional stability and advances the security and legitimate aspirations of Israelis and Palestinians alike."
Netanyahu for his part said he was ready to agree to a "long-term solution" as long as the rocket attacks from Gaza stopped.
"If there's a possibility of achieving a long-term solution for this problem by diplomatic means, we prefer it. But if not, I'm sure you understand that Israel will have to take every action necessary to defend its people," he said.
In Washington, State Department Spokesperson Victoria Nuland said that Clinton met for more than two hours with Netanyahu, Israel's foreign minister, defence minister, the national security advisor and other senior officials.
"They briefed her on the situation in Gaza and the threat posed by continuing rocket fire to Israeli cities and towns," Nuland said.
The officials discussed de-escalation efforts and ways "to bring about a sustainable outcome that protects Israel's security and improves the lives of civilians in Gaza," Nuland said.
"They also consulted on her impending stops in Ramallah and Cairo, including Egyptian efforts to advance de-escalation. They pledged to stay in close touch as she continues her travels."
Clinton also "offered condolences for the Israeli citizens killed and wounded in attacks today and over the past several days," Nuland said.
by Richard Ingham Â© 2012 AFP
Date: Nov 21, 2012