Kerry Says Mideast Peace Talks to Resume

Image: Kerry Says Mideast Peace Talks to Resume

Friday, 19 Jul 2013 03:10 PM

 

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Secretary of State John Kerry said Friday Israeli and Palestinian negotiators will meet in Washington within "the next week or so" after an agreement on the basis to resume peace talks.

The announcement came after he spent four days consulting the Israeli and Palestinian leadership — and a last-minute helicopter dash to Ramallah in the West Bank.

"I'm pleased to announce that we've reached an agreement that establishes a basis for resuming final status negotiations between the Palestinians and the Israelis," Kerry told reporters in Amman, Jordan.

"This is a significant and welcome step forward. The agreement is still in the process of being finalised so we are absolutely not going to talk about any of the elements now."

A U.S. State Department official said: "They have agreed on the core elements that will allow direct talks to begin."

Kerry said Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat and his Israeli counterpart Tzipi Livni would meet him in Washington "to begin initial talks within the next week or so."

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The announcement came at the end of four days of intense diplomacy by the secretary of state as he consulted Israeli and Palestinian leaders from his base in the Jordanian capital.

Kerry's last-minute whirlwind diplomacy came after the Palestinian leadership in Ramallah rejected his proposals for a framework to guide the relaunch of peace talks with the Israelis, stalled for nearly three years.

The setback to Kerry's peace push came from the governing Revolutionary Council of Abbas' own Fatah movement, which demanded changes to the U.S. plan.

Talks have stuttered and started for decades in the elusive bid to reach a final peace deal between the Arab world and Israel.

But they collapsed completely in September 2010 when Israel refused to keep up a freeze on settlement building in Palestinian territories.

Kerry was upbeat in speaking to reporters before he left Amman late on Friday for Washington.

In his brief comments, he praised the courage of Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

"No one believes the long-standing differences between the parties will be resolved overnight or just wiped away. We know that the challenges require some very tough choices in the days ahead," he said.

"Today, however, I am hopeful. I am hopeful because of the courageous leadership by President Abbas and Prime Minister Netanyahu. Both of them have chosen to make difficult choices here and both of them were instrumental," Kerry said.

Kerry arrived on Tuesday in the Jordanian capital, where he held two rounds of talks with Abbas. He also won endorsement from the Arab League for his proposals to resume talks.

His plan would have seen Israel, now ruled by a coalition that has tilted sharply to the right after elections early this year, make only a tacit commitment to slow settlement construction in the occupied territories, not the publicly announced freeze long demanded by Abbas.

On Wednesday, the U.S. envoy had expressed cautious optimism that he was making progress.

But he acknowledged that there were still differences over "the language" governing any resumption of talks.

It was the top U.S. diplomat's sixth visit to the region since he took office in February.

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On Thursday, President Barack Obama urged Netanyahu to resume talks.

"The president encouraged Prime Minister Netanyahu to continue to work with Secretary Kerry to resume negotiations with the Palestinians as soon as possible," the White House said in a statement, after the two leaders spoke by telephone.

Kerry's latest peace bid had been complicated by new European Union guidelines for its 28 member states that will block all funding of Jewish settlements.

© AFP 2014

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