US Secretary of State John Kerry, who arrived in Jordan on Saturday, is expected to hold talks in Amman with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas on Sunday. No trip to Israel is planned.
Kerry, accompanied by the special envoy for Israeli-Palestinian negotiations Frank Lowenstein, will meet with Jordanian King Abdullah and other officials to discuss “ongoing security issues in the region,” including the fight against Islamic State, the civil war in Syria, “and continued tensions between Israel and the Palestinians,” the State Department said.
Deputy State Department spokesman Mark Toner said on Friday he had no explanation as to why Kerry was not coming to Israel, saying only that “he’s certainly open to traveling to Israel sometime in the future.”
Israeli officials said they had no information of a planned visit.
Kerry’s meeting with Abbas comes at a time when the US has significantly lowered its sights on the possibility of launching an effective Israeli-Palestinian diplomatic process, with Kerry not even mentioning the conflict during a major foreign policy address at the World Economic Forum in Davos last month.
In lieu of an American initiative, two others have come to the forefront: The first is a French initiative calling for an international peace conference in the summer; and the second is the drawing up by the Mideast Quartet of a document aimed at spelling out the conditions on the ground necessary for a political process to be relaunched.
Regarding the French initiative, Channel 2 reported on Friday night that Paris has submitted plans for it to the nations on the 15-member UN Security Council.
The plan proposal would see a meeting of an international support group made up of the Quartet – the US, the EU, Russia and the UN – as well as with representatives of some other countries, including Arab states, in the spring to plan for the international conference, which would then be held with Israeli and Palestinian representatives in the summer in Paris.
French Ambassador to Israel Patrick Maisonnave presented the Foreign Ministry with outlines of the initiative last week. Israel has been cold to the idea, primarily because when it was first launched last month, then- French foreign minister Laurent Fabius – who has since stepped down – said that if the conference did not work, France would recognize a Palestinian state.
If that is the case, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu asked, why should the Palestinians negotiate in good faith, if they know that if they do not enter talks, France will still recognize a Palestinian state? Israeli officials said on Saturday night said that the details of the French plan remain sketchy, with even Jerusalem’s interlocutors in Europe not having much more information about it.
UN special envoy Nickolay Mladenov, when asked about the French initiative by The Jerusalem Post in an interview that appears in full in today’s paper, said that “we still need to understand a little bit better what exactly the French are putting on the table, because we’ve had some preliminary discussions with them, but I hope over the next few months we will see more details of what their proposal is.”
Mladenov said his personal view is that “it is not for us in the international community to tell you guys and the Palestinians how to come together.
It is for us to actually help create the conditions which will bring people together around a negotiated solution.”
Creating those conditions, he explained, was the rationale behind the Quartet initiative of putting together a report “on the situation on the ground.”
The purpose of the document, he said, is to go “sit down and look very seriously at what is happening on the ground and what are the risks to the prospect of achieving a twostate solution. That means looking at everything and trying to outline a way forward.”
Careful not to call the proposed document a road map, so as not to draw parallels with the Quartet’s Mideast Road Map of 2002 that proved unsuccessful in putting an end to the second intifada, Mladenov said the goal of the proposed document “is to keep everybody focused on this issue, because otherwise we are risking continuing this status quo on the ground.”