Kerry: Middle East talks not 'open-ended'

Secretary of state says US intends to evaluate what next steps should be in Israeli-Palestinian peace process.

    John Kerry has been trying to broker Israeli-Palestinian talks for more than a year [AP]
    John Kerry has been trying to broker Israeli-Palestinian talks for more than a year [AP]

    US Secretary of State John Kerry has said he would "evaluate" the next steps in the Middle East peace process with President Barack Obama, warning there are "limits" to Washington's time.

    "This is not open-ended," Kerry told a press conference in Rabat on Friday, adding that it was "reality check" time after negative Israeli and Palestinian moves.

    Kerry urged Israeli and Palestinian leaders to prevent the negotiations from collapsing, saying it was regrettable that both sides have taken steps recently that are not helpful in promoting peace and ending the decades-long conflict between the two sides.

    He plans to return to Washington on Friday after a lengthy trip to Europe and the Middle East. Kerry has been conducting more than a year of intensive shuttle diplomacy trying to broker Israeli-Palestinian peace.

    On Thursday, Israel announced that it will not release a fourth batch of Palestinian prisoners because of renewed Palestinian efforts to join international organisations. 

    Israel had promised to free 104 veteran Palestinian prisoners in four tranches, and in exchange, Ramallah pledged to freeze all moves to seek membership in UN organisations until April 2014.

    But Palestinians were enraged when Israel refused to release the final 26 prisoners, and responded by resuming their approach to international agencies.

    Al Jazeera's Nick Shifrin reported that hundreds of Palestinians had confronted the Israeli army on Friday near the military prison of Ofer, which is south of Ramallah, but Israeli forces had fired tear gas and rubber bullets to disperse the protesters. 

    The protesters were planning to pray by the prison in solidarity with prisoners. At least three Palestinians were injured.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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