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Progress or Stalemate in Peace Talks? Kerry's Efforts Continue

Jordan-based newspaper reports that Israel has agreed to freeze construction in Judea and Samaria. PA and Israeli leaders: No progress yet.
By Elad Benari
First Publish: 6/30/2013, 5:36 AM

Kerry and Netanyahu meet
Kerry and Netanyahu meet
Moshe Milner, GPO

As U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry continues his efforts to get Israel and the Palestinian Authority back to the negotiating table, there are conflicting reports on what he has accomplished.

The Jordan-based newspaper Alarab Alyawm reported on Saturday night that Kerry had received Israel’s consent to resume negotiations, discuss a building freeze in Judea and Samaria, draw the borders of the future Palestinian state and to release terrorists.

On the other hand, a source in the Palestinian Authority said Saturday night that there is no change in Israel's position regarding the recognition of the indefensible pre-1967 borders as the basis for negotiations or on the issue of freezing construction in Judea and Samaria.

Communications Minister Gilad Erdan, a member of the political-security cabinet, also said on Saturday that the sides are not yet close to resuming talks.

Speaking on Channel 2’s “Meet the Press”, Erdan said that PA Chairman Mahmound Abbas is still imposing the same preconditions he has imposed on negotiations for three years and that Israel has “no intention to respond to them.”

Kerry extended for a third day on Saturday his shuttle diplomacy between Israeli and PA leaders, raising speculation of progress in reviving long dormant "peace talks."

In a potential sign of headway, AFP reported, Kerry cancelled a dinner he had scheduled for Saturday night in Abu Dhabi, part of his separate tour in the past week through Gulf Arab states to coordinate support for rebels in Syria's civil war.

Kerry spoke by telephone with the UAE foreign minister, Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed al-Nahayan, to convey his regrets about the cancellation and to tell him that he hoped to visit at a later date, State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf said.

Harf said that Kerry would still head to a meeting of Asian ministers in Brunei starting on Monday but called off the Abu Dhabi stop because his "meetings on the peace process remain ongoing".

Kerry has spent seven hours since Thursday sounding out Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu.

Kerry's aides have played down expectations of an imminent breakthrough and instead are hoping to make incremental progress to set the stage for substantive negotiations between Israel and the PA.