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After Peres, Kerry Also Phones Netanyahu

After previously speaking with President Peres, the new U.S. Secretary of State phones PM Netanyahu, who says he is committed to peace.
By Elad Benari
First Publish: 2/4/2013, 4:13 AM

John Kerry
John Kerry
Reuters

After previously speaking with President Shimon Peres, the United States’ new Secretary of State, John Kerry, phoned Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu on Sunday evening.

During the conversation, Netanyahu told Kerry that his new government will be committed to peace and would strive to launch “a sober and responsible diplomatic process.”

The two also discussed the latest developments in Iran and Syria, and Kerry promised Netanyahu to work closely with him during his term as Secretary of State.

The phone call from Kerry came after he had already spoken on Saturday night with Peres. Kerry received an update on efforts by Netanyahu to build a new coalition, and the two “exchanged views” on regional matters, Kerry's office said.

On Sunday, Kerry also called Palestinian Authority (PA) chief Mahmoud Abbas. According to an Abbas spokesperson, Kerry told the PA chief that he expected to meet him in the near future in order to discuss restarting negotiations with Israel.

Kerry told Abbas that President Barack Obama supported such talks, and that he hoped both sides would agree to participate.

Reports have indicated that Kerry, who was officially sworn into office on Friday at a private ceremony on Capitol Hill, plans to visit Israel and Egypt as part of his first trip in his new role.

The trip, which is likely to signify the heightened determination of the Obama administration to promote peace in the region, could take place as soon as mid-February, according to a CNN report.

Last week, as he spoke to U.S. lawmakers meeting to confirm his nomination, Kerry hinted he has a plan up his sleeve to rekindle the peace talks between Israel and the Palestinian Authority but warned he was worried the door for a "two-state solution".

"We need to try to find a way forward, and I happen to believe that there is a way forward," said Kerry.

"But I also believe that if we can't be successful that the door, or window, or whatever you want to call it, to the possibility of a two-state solution could shut on everybody and that would be disastrous in my judgment," he added.

He also said that it is vital for the United States to confront immediate and dangerous challenges including terrorism and the threat from Iran's nuclear program.

"We will do what we must do to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon," he said. "And I repeat here today: Our policy is not containment, it is prevention, and the clock is ticking on our efforts to secure responsible compliance."

Kerry added that as secretary of state, he will work to give diplomacy every effort to succeed, but he said no one should mistake the U.S. resolve to reduce Iran's nuclear threat.