Kerry says he doesn't want deadlines for peace talks

US Secretary of State says progress needed on stalled talks ahead of UN General Assembly in September.

By REUTERS, BLOOMBERG
June 26, 2013 17:04
2 minute read.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry speaks to staff from the US Embassy in Kuwait City.

US Secretary of State Kerry fist pump 370. (photo credit: Reuters)

KUWAIT - US Secretary of State John Kerry said he did not want to set any deadlines for the peace process but added that there needed to be progress before the UN General Assembly in September.

Speaking at a news conference Wednesday in Kuwait with Foreign Minister Sheikh Sabah Khaled al-Sabah Kerry said Israeli and Palestinian leaders are both committed to reviving peace talks, but he acknowledged that progress on the long-stalled negotiations would be difficult.

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“I don’t want to trap myself or any of the principals in this with arbitrary and somewhat ad hoc time limits,” Kerry said.

“Time is the enemy of the peace process,” the US diplomat said. “The passage of time allows a vacuum to be filled by people who don’t want things to happen.”.

Kerry, who held separate talks with both sides in May, said Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas wanted the peace process to move forward.

"I believe they believe the peace process is bigger than any one day or one moment, or certainly more important to their countries than some of their current political challenges," he told a news conference in Kuwait with Foreign Minister Sheikh Sabah Khaled al-Sabah.

"That is why both of them have indicated a seriousness of purpose. I would not be here now if I didn't have the belief this is possible," he said.

The US leader was scheduled to arrive to the region on Thursday for his fifth visit in four months, in an effort to push the sides back into talks, which broke down in late 2010.

In an apparent bid to support Kerry's efforts, Netanyahu has quietly halted housing starts in settlements in the West Bank and east Jerusalem since his new government came to power in March, Housing Minister Uri Ariel said earlier this month, but projects already under way are continuing.

There has been no public indication from the Palestinians that Abbas is prepared to drop his long-standing demand for a freeze in settlement construction before resuming peace talks.

Abbas poured cold water Tuesday on rising expectations that restarting Israeli-Palestinian negotiations was just around the corner, reiterating his demand for a full settlement construction freeze and the release of Palestinian prisoners.

During a meeting with Norwegian Deputy Foreign Minister Torgeir Larsen in Ramallah, the Palestinian leader said peace talks with Israel should be based on the two-state solution and the establishment of a Palestinian state “on the [pre- ]1967 borders with Jerusalem as its capital.” Netanyahu has consistently rejected calls for a complete settlement freeze and for stating that the pre-1967 lines would be the baseline for the talks.

Abbas’ remarks were his first since media reports Monday claiming he had agreed to return to the negotiating table with Israel unconditionally. PA officials in Ramallah described the reports as “test balloons” by Israel to cause “confusion” among Palestinians ahead of Kerry’s arrival in the region.

Herb Keinon and Khaled Abu Toameh contributed to this report.


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