Kerry: US seeks unified path to resuming peace process

Secretary of State to meet Netanyahu, Erekat in Rome on Monday.

US Secretary of State John Kerry is greeted by Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erakat as he arrives in Cairo October 12 (photo credit: REUTERS)
US Secretary of State John Kerry is greeted by Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erakat as he arrives in Cairo October 12
(photo credit: REUTERS)
The US is holding a series of urgent meetings in Rome in an effort to reduce Israeli- Palestinian tensions and find a unified alternative to a Palestinian push for a United Nations Security Council resolution on the conflict.
Secretary of State John Kerry plans to hold separate face-to-face conversations in Rome on Monday with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat, and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov.
“We’re trying to figure out a way to help defuse the tensions and reduce the potential for more conflict and we’re exploring various possibilities to that end, which is why I’m also meeting with Prime Minister Netanyahu,” Kerry told reporters in Bogota, Colombia, on Friday.
Palestinians want the Security Council to approve a resolution by Christmas setting a November 2016 deadline for an Israeli withdrawal to the pre-1967 lines. France supports the concept of a UNSC resolution, but seeks language that could gain approval of all 15 member nations, including the US, which has opposed such resolutions in the past.
Erekat told reporters last week that Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas would sign the Rome Statute and become a member of the International Criminal Court should the UNSC initiative fail. Such a move would allow for war crime suits to be brought there against Israel.
Similarly, the move would also allow Israel to file war crime suits against the PA.
“There are a lot of different folks pushing in different directions out there, and the question is, ‘Can we all pull in the same direction?’ and that’s what we’re looking at,” Kerry said, explaining that he had discussed the matter with French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius, including on Thursday when they met in Lima, Peru.
“We did talk about the potential of – about variations on approaches and different potential impacts of different options,” Kerry said.
In Washington, State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki spoke to reporters on Thursday and Friday, saying there are growing calls for UN action on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
“We believe this warrants discussion with Israel, as it does with the Palestinians, as it does with a number of partners in the global community.
And the secretary has found that face-to-face diplomacy is often very effective when it comes to these difficult and complicated issues,” she said, reiterating the US position that a negotiated solution was the best way to achieve a twostate solution and peace in the region.
Psaki rebuffed questions by reporters on the US position regarding a Security Council resolution, noting that a final draft had not yet been tabled.
“We’re not going to prejudge what those are or prejudge proposals out there that are on the broad range of the spectrum,” she said.
In Paris on Thursday, French State Secretary for European Affairs Harlem Desir told the senate that his country was working on a draft UNSC resolution that called for the immediate resumption of direct Israeli-Palestinian negotiations that should last for two years. His country, he said, is also ready to host an international conference on the peace process.
“We will not bend either on the rights of the Palestinians nor on the right to security for Israel,” he said.
He spoke before the senate held a non-binding vote to recognize a Palestinian state.
Though the French government has yet to take this step, Desir said it would do so if the current initiative for renewed negotiations are unsuccessful.
“If this ultimate try should fail, France would have to take its responsibilities by recognizing the Palestinian state. We are ready for this,” Desir said.
Israel has opposed a UNSC resolution because it believes it robs the Palestinians of any incentive to negotiate. Netanyahu plans to tell Kerry that Israel “sees this kind of thing as destabilizing,” an Israeli official said.
Jordan’s UN Ambassador Dina Kawar said this month she hopes a resolution could be put to a vote in December or January.
Some countries believe agreement on a resolution would be easier to achieve before Israeli elections in March. If the United States pushes the Europeans to wait until after Israel’s elections, the Jordanians could put forward the Palestinian- drafted resolution for a vote in January, which is likely to be vetoed by Washington.
“Waiting until April, and therefore probably facing a Palestinian draft in the Security Council in January vetoed by the Americans, will just make the situation worse,” said a senior Western diplomat, speaking on condition of anonymity.
“If there is a window of opportunity for a consensus resolution it might be this month,” the diplomat said.
A spokesman for UN Secretary- General Ban Ki-moon on Friday said negotiations are the best option for a two-state solution.
“The secretary-general continues to believe that there is a need for both parties to sit down and negotiate directly and discuss directly and it is up [to] the international community and the United Nations to do whatever we can to support that,” the spokesman said.
Reuters contributed to this report.