Qatari Foreign Minister Khalid Bin al Attiyah (L) and Kerry.
(photo credit: Reuters)
To support the peace process Qatar agreed on Monday to give $150 million in debt relief to the Palestinian Authority as the pace of direct negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians intensified.
Since direct talks resumed in July, Israeli and Palestinians have held 13 serious meetings, three of which occurred over the last four days, US Secretary of State John Kerry told reporters at a joint press conference in Paris with Qatari Foreign Minister Khalid al-Atiyah. Kerry is scheduled to meet with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu in Rome on Wednesday.
"The pace [of the talks] has intensified. All the core issues are on the table, and they [Israelis and Palestinians] have been meeting with increased intensity," Kerry said.
Economic support is an important part of the peace process, Kerry told reporters in Paris, as expressed confidence that other Arab countries would follow Qatar's example.
But, he cautioned, a final status agreement for a two state solution is dependent on the ability of the two parties to make "key decisions" and "reasonable compromises."
"That includes taking all of the steps that are necessary to create a positive atmosphere for the negotiations," Kerry said.
He chided both the Israelis and the Palestinians and reminded them that a conducive atmosphere was one of the key things they had agreed to abide by for the duration of the nine-month peace process.
Kerry's remarks come at a time where in spite of the continuation of the talks, when Palestinians and Israelis have both acted in ways that antagonized the other and have continued to exchange harsh words in public.
At the press conference, however, Kerry accentuated the positive. He said he was pleased with the Eid al-Adha wishes, which Netanyahu issued in advance of the Palestinian holiday. Netanyahu has clarified that Israel is committed to maintaining the status quo in holy places, Kerry said.
"He [Netanyahu] made it clear that the hand of Israel is extended to the Palestinian people in hopes of peace," Kerry said.
Kerry commended the Arab League and its offer through the Arab Peace Initiative normalize relations between Israel and 57 nations, of which 35 are Muslim and 22 Arab. He also thanked the Palestinian Authority as well as its President Mahmoud Abbas for their support of the peace process.
The Israeli and Palestinian leaders have displayed courage in entering and remaining in the peace process, Kerry said. They understand what is at stake, and they have taken risks in order to bring both parties to the table, he said.
A two state solution that offers a just and lasting peace is achievable, Kerry said and added that the opportunity for peace was just over the horizon.
"Two proud peoples deserve the opportunity to realize their legitimate aspirations, their security, and their freedom, and their future," Kerry said.
Atiyah told reporters that a two-state solution would be based on the pre-1967 borders. He added that the division that exists between Gaza and the West Bank does not help the peace process. A way has to be found to open the crossing points and out of Gaza, Atiya said.
"Isolating Gaza won't help the peace process," he said.
Atiyeh said he was concerned by Israel's statements that harm the peace process as well as its actions such as settlement expansion and the destruction of Palestinian homes and Beduin communities.
"Also, raising the Israeli flag, we consider this to be a transgression that we cannot possibly accept, not in the Arab world or the Islamic world. Therefore, we urge that the conducive environment for the negotiations be created," said Atiya.