(Updates with Panetta comment in third paragraph, Barak in sixth.)
Oct. 3 (Bloomberg) -- U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said securing peace between Israelis and Palestinians will require “bold action” and there is “no alternative” to negotiations.
Panetta, who met with Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak today in Tel Aviv, also said the Obama administration opposes withholding funds from the Palestinian Authority to retaliate for their decision to seek statehood recognition at the United Nations. U.S. officials have vowed to veto the proposal.
“Security is dependent on a strong military, but it is also dependent on strong diplomacy,” Panetta said. “I want to emphasize that there is a need and an opportunity for bold action on both sides to move towards a negotiated two-state solution.”
The U.S. and its international partners are trying to arrange new Middle East talks aimed at reaching a peace agreement that would precede recognition of a Palestinian state and membership in the UN. Panetta was scheduled to meet with both Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu later today.
Barak said that Israel must try to ease strains that have developed with both Egypt and Turkey, as well as with the Palestinians.
“We have to look for any reasonable and proper way to reduce tensions,” Barak said.
--Editors: Louis Meixler, Ben Holland.
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