Peace talks making progress, says Kerry

January 05, 2014 - 4:09:33 am

 U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry (left) and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas talk at a meeting at the presidential compound in the West Bank city of Ramallah yesterday.

JERUSALEM: US Secretary of State John Kerry is to fly to Jordan and Saudi Arabia today seeking backing for his plans for Middle East peace, after insisting he has made progress.

After a second meeting with Palestinian leader Mahmud Abbas in the West Bank, Kerry swept back to Jerusalem for his third discussions with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in three days.

“We’re not there yet, but we are making progress,” Kerry said yesterday, adding everyone was “working with great intensity” to try to reach a peace deal.

Speaking to reporters in Abbas’s Ramallah headquarters, Kerry announced he would also travel to Jordan, which borders the West Bank, and to Saudi Arabia today for talks with the kings of both nations.

“I’m confident that the talks we’ve had in the past two days have already fleshed out and even resolved certain kinds of issues and presented new opportunities for others,” he said.

“We are beginning to flesh out the toughest hurdles yet to be overcome.”

Jordan is only one of two Arab countries to have signed a peace treaty with Israel, and King Abdullah II holds a special position because the 1994 accord recognises his country’s “historic” role in caring for Muslim holy sites in east Jerusalem.

Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz of Saudi Arabia also plays a key role, as the kingdom was the author of an Arab League peace initiative.

Direct Israeli-Palestinian negotiations had been frozen for almost three years, but after intense diplomacy by Kerry the two sides agreed to resume talks in July. But his 10th trip to the region has been clouded by bitter recriminations between Israeli and Palestinian leaders. AFP

 

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