Kerry in Jerusalem to keep peace talks alive | News | Al Jazeera

Kerry in Jerusalem to keep peace talks alive

US secretary of state meets Israeli and Palestinian leaders as negotiations falter over Israeli settlement-building.

    John Kerry, the US secretary of state, is meeting Israeli and Palestinian leaders to try to keep the peace process from collapsing, urging them to reach a long-elusive deal.

    Kerry's on Wednesday met Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian president, in Bethlehem after talks with the Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Shimon Peres, the Israeli president, in occupied Jerusalem.

    Acknowledging that the negotiations had run into difficulties, Kerry spoke of a need for "real compromises and hard decisions" from both sides.

    "President Obama sees the road ahead, as do I, and we share a belief in this process or we wouldn't put time into it," he said during a joint press conference with Netanyahu in Jerusalem.

    Netanyahu took a harder stance. "I am concerned about the progress because I see the Palestinians continuing with incitement, continuing to create artificial crises, continuing to avoid, run away from the historic decisions that are needed to make a genuine peace," he said with Kerry at his side.

    Major obstacle

    The picture painted by Netanyahu was similar to the one sketched by senior Palestinians, who have said an Israeli plan announced last week for 3,500 more settler homes in the occupied West Bank was a major obstacle to the success of the negotiations.

    After months of shuttle diplomacy, Kerry succeeded in persuading Israel and the Palestinians to reopen peace talks in late July after a nearly five-year break.

    The sides have committed to hold nine months of talks in hopes of reaching a peace deal.

    Journalist Akiva Eldar discusses the prospect of peace

    An anonymous senior Palestinian official told AFP news agency that the Palestinians would refuse to continue the talks as long as Jewish settlement on the West Bank proliferates.

    "The Israeli side is determined to continue its settlement and we cannot continue negotiations under these unprecedented settlement attacks," he said after a meeting of Israeli and Palestinian negotiators.

    Al Jazeera's Mika Hanna, reporting from Jerusalem, confirmed scepticism on both sides.

    "There is a degree of deja vu: we have all seen these processes before," he said.

    "What maybe perhaps different in this particular track is the changing circumstances within the region. And one must take note too that Netanyahu won't be talking only about peace talks with John Kerry."

    On the sidelines of the peace talks, Israel has released half of the 104 Palestinian prisoners it pledged to free under a deal Kerry brokered to draw Abbas back to negotiations that Palestinians abandoned in 2010 over settlement building.

    Palestinians have bridled at any suggestion they agreed to turn a blind eye to the settlement campaign, on land they seek for a state, in return for the men, long-serving inmates convicted of killing Israelis.

    Abbas, in a speech broadcast on Monday, said that after all the rounds of negotiations "there is nothing on the ground".

    The settlements that Israel has built in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, territories it captured in the 1967 Middle East war, are considered illegal by most countries.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and agencies


    YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE

    Interactive: Coding like a girl

    Interactive: Coding like a girl

    What obstacles do young women in technology have to overcome to achieve their dreams? Play this retro game to find out.

    America's Guns: Secret Pipeline to Syria

    America's Guns: Secret Pipeline to Syria

    How has the international arms trade exacerbated conflict in the Middle East? People and Power investigates.

    I remember the day … I designed the Nigerian flag

    I remember the day … I designed the Nigerian flag

    In 1959, a year before Nigeria's independence, a 23-year-old student helped colour the country's identity.