Kerry steps up Israel-Palestine shuttle talks

US Secretary of State meets Abbas in Jordan and Netanyahu in Jerusalem for second time in two days to push peace talks.

    Kerry steps up Israel-Palestine shuttle talks
    Israeli President Shimon Peres praised John Kerry for his determination to resume peace talks [Reuters]

    US Secretary of State John Kerry has accelerated his Middle East shuttle diplomacy in the hope of persuading Israel and Palestine to resume direct peace negotiations.

    After seeing Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in Jordan on Friday, Kerry flew by helicopter to Jerusalem for evening talks with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

    In a sign that he may be making progress in his mission to bring the sides together, a State Department official announced late on Friday that Kerry would return to Amman for another meeting with Abbas on Saturday, then return to Israel for additional meetings.

    The State Department official said a three-hour meeting with Netanyahu on Friday, the second in two days, involved a "detailed and substantive conversation about the way forward".

    The frenzied back-and-forth is similar to Henry Kissinger's shuttle diplomacy as secretary of state to mediate conflicts in the Middle East throughout the 1970s. 

    Israeli President Shimon Peres praised Kerry for his determination.

    "I know this is difficult, there are many problems, but as far as I'm concerned I can see how (among) people, there is a clear majority for the peace process, a two-state solution, and a great expectation that you will do it and that you can do it," he told Kerry. 

    Confidence-building measures

    Abbas has insisted that building in the settlements, viewed as illegal by most world powers, be halted before talks resume. He also wants Israel to recognise the boundary of the West Bank as the basis for the future Palestine's border.

    Direct negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians broke down in 2010 in a dispute over Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem, territories that the Palestinians seek for a future state.

    Kerry has divulged little of his plan to bring the sides together, but has said he would not have returned to the region if he did not believe there could be progress.

    He is also keen to clinch a peacemaking deal before the United Nations General Assembly, which has already granted de facto recognition to a Palestinian state, convenes in September.

    State Department officials believe the sides will return to negotiations once there is an agreement on confidence-building measures and a formula for fresh talks.

    SOURCE: Reuters


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