Kerry to Visit Israel, PA Yet Again
He was just in Israel and the Palestinian Authority, but United States Secretary of State John Kerry will be making yet another visit to the region this week.
State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said Monday that Kerry would be leaving Washington on Wednesday to return to the region for more talks with both Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem and PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas in Ramallah.
"This is an important time in the negotiations, and he felt it was important to return to the region," she told reporters, according to the AFP news agency, adding Kerry would spend two days in Israel and Ramallah for talks.
Psaki, however, denied reports that Kerry and the administration of President Barack Obama were seeking some kind of interim framework ahead of a full accord.
"Just to be absolutely clear, we are not focused on an interim deal, we are focused on a final deal," she told reporters, while adding "there of course will be a process to getting there."
All sides remained "committed to a nine-month timeframe" set out earlier this year when Kerry succeeded in bringing the two sides back to the negotiating table after a three-year stalemate, said the spokeswoman.
Bidding to keep the peace process on track, Kerry met Monday in Washington with PA chief negotiator Saeb Erakat and his Israeli counterpart Tzipi Livni, reported AFP.
Kerry, who is eager to see progress being made in the peace talks, was in Israel late last week and met both Netanyahu and Abbas. On Friday, before he left Israel for Washington, Kerry told reporters that Israel and the PA were “closer than they’ve been in years” to achieving a peace agreement.
A report on Sunday indicated that Kerry was threatening to delay the next scheduled release of terrorists being held in Israeli prisons as a means of pressuring the PA to accept the security proposal he made for the Jordan Valley.
Responding to Kerry’s threats, a spokesperson for Abbas declared Monday that the PA will not agree to the delay.
Meanwhile Yasser Abed Rabbo, a top Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) official, told AFP that Kerry's Jordan Valley proposals "will drive Kerry's efforts to an impasse and to total failure."