Washington (CNN) – The Obama administration is making a renewed push for Mideast peace, stepping up pressure on Israelis and Palestinians to resume talks focusing on borders of a future Palestinian state and the status of Jerusalem.
Doing so, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Friday, would address Palestinian concerns about Israeli settlement construction.
Previously, the Obama administration made freezing Israeli settlements in Palestinian-controlled areas its priority, an approach that only hardened both sides' resolve and stalled talks for months.
But Clinton suggested Friday that Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas drop his demand for a total settlement freeze before talks could resume.
"Resolving borders resolves settlements. Resolving Jerusalem resolves settlements," she told reporters after talks with Jordanian Foreign Minister Nasser Judeh. "We need to lift our sights and instead of ... looking down at the trees, we need to look at the forest."
Echoing Clinton's comments, Judeh said, "if you resolve the question of borders, then you automatically resolve not only settlements in Jerusalem, but you identify the nature on the ground of the two-state solution and how it looks like. And then all other things fit in place."
Judeh said a peace process could not be "open-ended," but should have a timeline. Absent a quick agreement, he warned, "we will witness further regional instability and divisions that extremists will exploit, not only in the Middle East, but worldwide."
Clinton later met at the State department with Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit and intelligence head Omar Suleiman.
"We are coming to try to regenerate enough energy and to create enough momentum for a peace effort and it is crucial that we would win," Aboul Gheit told reporters before sitting down with Clinton.
In a further sign of the renewed US push to revive talks, Mideast Envoy George Mitchell is headed to Europe next week and to the region later this month.
In a television interview this week with Charlie Rose, Mitchell said he was carrying some new ideas to jumpstart negotiations over a Palestinian state within two years.
"What we're going to tell them that we think the time has come to enter negotiations," he said. "We will lay out what we think is a proper basis for doing so, a timeframe for achieving agreement, a method of negotiating that we think will achieve the desired result."
Mitchell's travel comes amid a flurry of diplomatic activity in the Middle East. Abbas, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Jordan's King Abdullah and Saudi Foreign Minister Saud Al-Faisal have all recently traveled to Egypt for talks with President Hosni Mubarak, all in an effort to jumpstart peace negotiations.
A senior Arab diplomat briefing reporters said the Arab world sensed a "new momentum," both in the United States and in the region, to reach an agreement.
"We want 2010 to be the year of peace," he said.
He said Arab states are looking for the US to provide "terms of reference" for how it views a peace deal, nothing that President Obama promised to take a leadership role in ending the conflict.
"Not just an honest broker, but an arbiter, and arbiters have opinions," said the Arab diplomat, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitive nature of the diplomacy.
US and Arab officials said the United States is examining what types of assurances it might provide the parties to get them back to the table, possibly in the form of letters.
While not directly referring to such letters, Clinton said ending the conflict would require "guarantees and assistance" from the United States and others.
Clinton also reaffairmed the US position that an eventual Palestinian state should be based on the borders prior to the 1967 war in which Israel occupied the West Bank. She said she could envision a peace deal that "reconciles the Palestinian goal of an independent and viable state based on the 1967 lines with agreed swaps, and the Israeli goal of a Jewish state with secure ... borders that reflect subsequent developments and meet Israeli security requirements."