Kerry says will attend Paris conference on Palestinian-Israeli peace

Kerry explained that he and Ayrault had spoken about the initiative, which he 'welcomed,' in which over 20 ministers would meet to plan a larger peace conference for the fall.

May 19, 2016 23:16
2 minute read.
US Secretary of State John Kerry speaks to the press at NATO headquarters in Brussels

US Secretary of State John Kerry speaks to the press at NATO headquarters in Brussels. (photo credit: AFP PHOTO)


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The United States plans to attend a June 3 Paris meeting that will launch a French-led peace initiative that would set a framework for renewed talks between Israelis and Palestinians.

“I told him [French Foreign Minister Jean- Marc Ayrault] that I would be there,” US Secretary of State John Kerry told reporters on Thursday on the sidelines of a NATO Foreign Ministerial meeting in Brussels.

Kerry explained that he and Ayrault had spoken about the initiative, which he “welcomed,” in which over 20 ministers would meet to plan a larger peace conference for the fall.

“I will work with the French, I will work with the Egyptians, I will work with the Arab community in good faith in an effort to see if we can find a way to help the parties see their way to come back,” Kerry said.

He came to Brussels following a brief trip Tuesday to Cairo to explore a proposal by Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi to mediate a reconciliation between the Palestinians and Israelis.

The Paris meeting and a public call this week by Sisi for Israelis and Palestinians to take historic steps for peace, are part of renewed surge to break the two-year deadlock in the Israeli-Arab conflict.

Israel has welcomed Sisi’s efforts but, so far, has opposed the French initiative, which it has warned would proscribe a solution and give the Palestinians an excuse not to hold direct talks. The Palestinians, in turn, have welcomed both the French and Egyptian efforts.

Kerry’s words about the French proposal ended speculation as to whether the appointment of Yisrael Beytenu party head Avigdor Liberman as defense minister would derail the new international peace effort.

In Washington, US State Department spokesman John Kirby told reporters, the US would work with Benjamin Netanyahu’s government “no matter who he selects.” He added that he was confident the deep bilateral relationship between the two countries would continue.

French Prime Minister Manuel Valls will arrive in Israel Saturday night for a three-day visit that includes time in the Palestinian territories.

While here, he will continue to promote the French initiative. Ayrault made a brief visit on Sunday in which he met with Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.

In Brussels, Kerry said the United States, which has led all past peace processes, will be actively involved in this one, as well.

He rejected the idea that the US had failed in its past efforts to resolve the conflict.

“It is not the failure of the US or any other country to bring people back to the table. It is the failure of those countries themselves to make the decision to come back to the table,” Kerry said.

He added that ending the Israeli-Palestinian conflict was not just a “US enterprise,” saying his country has played a “significant role because we have a special and close relationship with Israel and everyone in the world understands that.”

“What we are seeking to do,” he said, “is to help encourage the parties to be able to see a way forward so they can understand that peace is a possibly.”

To move forward, both sides would have to make compromises, he added.

Diplomats say the meeting will package all the economic incentives and other guarantees that various countries have offered in previous years to create an agenda for an autumn peace conference.

Reuters contributed to this report.

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