Jordanian FM hopeful Kerry will relaunch talks

Secretary of State's efforts may create "inducing environment."

By TOVAH LAZARO
May 23, 2013 00:38
4 minute read.
Diplomats pose for a group photo in Amman May 22, 2013.

Diplomats in Amman; Kerry et all 370. (photo credit: REUTERS/Jim Young)

US Secretary of State John Kerry’s round-the-clock efforts will hopefully create a conducive environment to relaunch Israeli-Palestinian talks, Nasser Judeh, Jordan’s foreign minister, said on Wednesday in Amman on the eve of Kerry’s arrival in Jerusalem Thursday.

“We provide our full support for these efforts, and God willing, they will result in crystallizing an inducing environment for launching these negotiations,” said Judeh after meeting with Kerry.

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The secretary of state is scheduled to meet Thursday with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, President Shimon Peres and Justice Minister Tzipi Livni, who will be in charge of negotiations with the Palestinians, if and when Kerry gets them off the ground.

This will be Livni’s third meeting with Kerry this month, having met with him already in Washington and Rome. This will be Kerry’s fourth visit to the region since US President Barack Obama visited Israel in late March.

Officials in the Prime Minister’s Office said that Netanyahu and Kerry speak on a regular basis, about once “every two to three days.”

But Kerry is expected to meet with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas only on Sunday in Jordan, at the World Economic Forum.

Chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat will also be at the forum.

Kerry is expected to roll out a framework for returning to negotiations in early June, and since taking office he has been trying to get the various sides to take steps that would create a better environment more conducive to talks.

These steps include what is widely believed to be a de facto but unstated temporary freeze on construction beyond the Green Line, including in east Jerusalem; a PA commitment to temporarily avoid seeking upgrades in international forums or taking Israel to the International Criminal Court; and the Arab League delegation’s recent declaration that it would accept an Israeli-Palestinian peace accord that included a “mild” land swap.

Israeli officials have been very reticent about talking about details of the package Kerry is working on to get the sides back to the table, saying that there was “actually a chance” it could work and a public discussion of the details “could be detrimental.”

United Nations Special Coordinator to the Middle East Peace Process Robert Serry told the UN Security Council in New York that efforts to “achieve the negotiated two-state solution are 0likely to reach a critical point in the coming weeks ahead.”

But a senior PLO official said the Palestinians did not expect “We don’t believe this visit will lead to any results,” PLO Executive Committee member Wasel Abu Yusef said.

Reiterating the PA demand for a full cessation of settlement construction, Abu Yusef said that Palestinians should not return to the peace talks unless Israel released Palestinian prisoners.

He added that the talk about resuming the peace process was pointless as long as Israel continues to reject a sovereign Palestinian state and the “right of return” for Palestinians to return to their former homes inside Israel.

The PLO official rejected the recent Arab League proposal for a land swap between the Palestinians and Israel.

It stepped up its anti-Israel rhetoric on Wednesday, with PA Foreign Minister Riad Malki accusing Israel of thwarting Kerry’s efforts during a meeting in Ramallah with Erkki Tuomioja, Finland’s foreign minister.

Malki strongly condemned “continued Israeli practices and violations against our people and their properties,” according to a statement by the PA.

He called for international intervention to stop Israel’s alleged violations that, he added, “will hinder international efforts to revive the peace process.”

Malki claimed that Israel was determined to foil Kerry’s mission by continuing to build in Jerusalem and settlements.

Earlier, Malki’s office warned that the demolition of houses and businesses that were built without licenses in east Jerusalem was also designed to foil Kerry’s mission.

Jerusalem Municipality inspectors have over the past few days demolished a number of houses and a car exhibition business that did not have proper licenses.

The PA Foreign Ministry said that the demolitions were also aimed at “emptying Jerusalem of its Palestinian residents.”

The demolitions, it added, “constituted a blunt challenge to the will of the international community.”

The State Department said Kerry’s meetings in Jordan, Jerusalem and Ramallah “are to follow up on ongoing discussions as we continue to assess how we can best support the parties in getting back to the table and in having dialogue leading to peace. We remain committed to working with the parties to achieve a lasting peace through direct negotiations.”

Israeli officials said that while the Palestinian issue will be at the center of Netanyahu’s talks with Kerry, there is no doubt that other burning issues – such as the situation in Syria and Iran – will also be discussed.

In addition to meeting Kerry, Netanyahu is also scheduled to meet separately with British Foreign Secretary of State William Hague, who is arriving Thursday for two days of talks with Israeli and Palestinian officials, as well as with former French president Nicolas Sarkozy.

Sarkozy, who famously called Netanyahu a liar in a private conversation with Obama in 2011 and added “I cannot bear Netanyahu,” received an honorary doctorate from the Netanyahu Academic College on Wednesday. He received the award for his “humanitarian work, leadership, and friendship toward Israel and the Jewish people.”

Netanyahu and Sarkozy met once in Paris since the “liar” incident.

This will be their first meeting, however, since Sarkozy lost the French presidential elections last year. He is believed to be the one who asked for the meeting with Netanyahu. •


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