Abu Dhabi: Long-lasting peace across the Middle East will take some time to come despite President Barack Obama expressing a deep desire to help achieve durable peace, said William S. Cohen, former US secretary of defence.

In an exclusive interview with Gulf News on Monday, Cohen said: "Establishing peace in the Middle East will take time, but [it] is on President Obama's top priority list."

"This is already evident in various conversations regarding the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. There are ongoing talks between Obama and former president Bill Clinton [who was known for his strong commitment during Camp David], Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and King Abdullah of Jordan.

"Palestinians need to enjoy statehood, sovereignty, authority, economic stability and dignity, and Israel needs to find security. There has got to be unification between political leaderships, with one voice and one concession," he told Gulf News.

Peace will not be possible unless Palestinians and Israelis live side by side in two separate states, said the former defence secretary. "There must be concessions regarding territorial ownerships. Unity between both governments is the only solution to end this continuous violence, mistrust and broken promises."

The former secretary said he hoped that Palestinians would regain economic opportunities and stability in what he called a future possibility.

"A conflict that has existed for so many years will only be solved through a two-state solution opportunity and I trust the present US administration will do all it can to help achieve that resolution," he added.

Cohen commended Obama's choice of administration officials, specifically referring to the appointment of Middle East adviser George Mitchell, who he has been politically engaged with the region for the past 34 years.

"Senator Mitchell and I have been friends for most of our lives. He has extensive experience in resolving long-term conflicts, as was evident during his involvement in the Northern Ireland peace negotiations - 700 days of conflict and one day of success showed his persistence to bring about change and an end to the violence," said the former secretary, who added that Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton both require a strong Middle East adviser given the current situation across the region, specifically with the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.

Cohen has visited the UAE a total of 25 times, on an average three times a year. He visited the Gulf six times last year, and on five of those occasions he came to the UAE.

Both Senators Cohen and Mitchell are authors of the book Men of Zeal, a candid inside story of the Iran-contra hearings.

"We wrote that book together in 1987 and it came out in 1988, and I can tell you that there Mitchell's background experience and extensive knowledge in resolving long-term conflicts is unbeatable. He is committed to bringing about a solution to Middle East conflicts," he said.