John Kerry and Mahmoud Abbas..
(photo credit: Reuters)
WASHINGTON -- US Secretary of State John Kerry told Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas he has just weeks to make "tough political decisions" in talks with Israel over a two-state solution, during a bilateral meeting between the two men in Washington on Sunday.
Kerry encouraged Abbas "to make the tough decisions that will be necessary in the weeks ahead," a senior State Department official said after the meeting.
"He also reiterated that we are at a pivotal time
in the negotiations and while these issues have decades of history behind them, neither party should let tough political decisions at this stage stand in the way of a lasting peace," the official added.
Kerry has called current negotiations— moderated almost exclusively by the secretary himself— the best chance for the Palestinians to achieve their desired aim of self-determination, fulfilled.
Abbas will meet with US President Barack Obama at the White House on Monday. Kerry will attend the meeting, where the two men are expected to pressure Abbas to agree to a framework for the continuation of peace talks with Israel.
The talks have extended over nine months— the time allotted by the US last summer for negotiations towards a lasting solution to the historic conflict.
Yet in the eleventh hour, the US continues "to work with both parties to narrow the gaps," the official said.
Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu visited Washington two weeks ago, asserting that Abbas and his negotiating team were not making the necessary concessions, or preparations, for a peace deal.
Netanyahu also renewed his call for the Palestinian Authority to formally recognize Israel as the Jewish homeland
, characterizing their refusal to do so a core issue in the conflict.
Israeli officials on Sunday criticized Kerry for belittling the issue. Testifying before the House Foreign Relations Committee, the secretary said that those fixating on the 'Jewish state' issue are mistaken.
Israel was recognized as a Jewish state, he added, by the United Nations at the state's founding in 1947, and by former PLO chairman Yasser Arafat in 1988 and again in 2004.