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Biden offers Palestinians warm words but deep rift remains

The US President Joe Biden came to Bethlehem with sympathy, strong rhetoric on the need for peace between Israel and the Palestinians but no prospect of a political breakthrough.

At a longer than expected meeting with the Palestinian president in the occupied West Bank, he restated his long-time commitment to the idea of creating an independent state of Palestine.

But he said that the ground was "not right at this moment" to restart peace talks.

In response, the 86-year-old Palestinian leader, Mahmoud Abbas said the chance for a two-state solution to the Israel-Palestinian conflict "may not remain for a long time."

Washington has been trying to mend ties with the Palestinians, which were broken under the last US administration, and has restored some funding. On this presidential trip, it has announced plenty of economic aid and other support, such as the creation of a 4G phone service.

Mr Biden began the day at the Augusta Victoria Hospital on the Mount of Olives, part of Israeli-annexed East Jerusalem, which has never been visited by a sitting president before.

He told medical staff that he brought "a message of hope".

Washington is giving $100m (99m euros; £85m) to help the Palestinian hospital, which is the main cancer treatment centre for patients from the West Bank and Gaza Strip, and five others nearby.

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