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Kerry: There's Progress, but I Can't Tell You About it

Secretary of State John Kerry says that progress has been made in talks Israel-PA peace talks, but won't provide details.
By Elad Benari
First Publish: 12/6/2013, 2:12 AM

John Kerry
John Kerry
Flash 90

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said Thursday that progress had been made in talks between Israel and the Palestinian Authority, but would not provide details.

The U.S. top diplomat reiterated the importance of Israel’s security after a three-hour meeting with PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas in Ramallah.

"We are not going to discuss this further publicly," Kerry told reporters afterwards, according to AFP, saying only that their discussions on security had made “progress.”

"The interests are very similar, but there are questions of sovereignty, questions of respect and dignity, which are obviously significant to the Palestinians, and for the Israelis very serious questions of security,” he said.

"Shortly, perhaps in a week or so, I may return for further discussions, depending on where we are," Kerry added.

Abbas himself made no appearance after the meeting but top PA negotiator Saeb Erekat told AFP, "Abbas met Kerry for four hours... and discussed issues including security.”

"We hope Israel will stick to its commitments and be forced to stop settlement building. Settlements are the reason for the difficulties in negotiations," Erakat charged.

"The situation is still very difficult and matters are complicated."

Another PA official speaking on condition of anonymity said earlier that Kerry's security proposals "were very bad ideas which we cannot accept."

After meeting Abbas, Kerry returned to Jerusalem for dinner with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, and a senior State Department official said the two would meet again on Friday morning.

Kerry would also meet Israeli Finance Minister Yair Lapid before leaving for Washington, the official said.

U.S. special envoy on security General John Allen briefed Netanyahu Thursday, Kerry said, on "potential threats to Israel (and) to the region."

U.S. and Israeli media reports have suggested Allen was to present an outline of how Israel's security arrangements might look under a peace deal, but a State Department official denied Allen had a ready-made plan.

Kerry and Allen, who has been working on the security issue with Israeli defense experts, provided Netanyahu and his top brass "with some thoughts about... security challenges that we're going to be facing, that the Israelis are facing," deputy State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf said in Washington.

"This isn't a plan, per se. This is really part of an ongoing conversation," she told reporters, according to AFP. "More details certainly were provided, but it would be incorrect to say that some final plan was put on the table for discussion."

Earlier Thursday, speaking to reporters after meeting Netanyahu, Kerry insisted that Israel's security was a top priority, both in talks with Iran on its controversial nuclear program as well as in a peace arrangement with the PA.

Peace talks between Israel and the PA have made little apparent headway since they began under Kerry’s patronage in late July.    

In late November, senior Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) official Nabil Shaath revealed that the PA is only staying in the peace talks to release all 104 terrorist prisoners promised as a "gesture."

On Tuesday a senior EU official threatened the EU would take action against both Israel and the PA should talks fail. According to the official, the EU would cut its 300 million Euros ($407.7 million) annual aid to the PA, and revive its plan to label Israeli products manufactured in Judea and Samaria.