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Kerry: Saudis Support Peace Efforts

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry says he won Saudi support for his efforts to broker a deal between Israel and the PA.
By Elad Benari
First Publish: 1/6/2014, 4:13 AM

Kerry meets Saudi foreign minister in Riyadh
Kerry meets Saudi foreign minister in Riyadh
Reuters

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, in the Middle East as part of his never-ending efforts to secure an Israeli-Palestinian Authority peace deal, said on Sunday he had won Saudi support for his efforts to broker a deal, AFP reported.

Kerry briefed officials in Jordan and Saudi Arabia about his intense shuttling between Israel's Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas over the past few days.

In Amman, he spent more than an hour with King Abdullah II and Foreign Minister Nasser Judeh.

A senior State Department official said Kerry had wanted to "seek their counsel on the discussion with the Israelis and Palestinians about a framework for final status negotiations.”

He then travelled to Saudi Arabia for almost three hours of talks with King Abdullah in his secluded desert residence.

He emerged from the talks saying they had been "very productive."

"Today, His Majesty was not just encouraging, but supported our efforts and hopes that we can be successful in the days ahead and believes that this is important for the region and that there are great benefits that will come to everybody if we're able to be successful," said Kerry, according to AFP.

Saudi Foreign Minister Saud al-Faisal agreed it had been "an excellent meeting."

"There is really no meeting that could have been smoother and more productive than this meeting," Reuters quoted him as having told reporters while seated beside Kerry in an airport reception room.

"It's a meeting that ... belies any bad vibes about relations that were expressed in many of the media lately," he added, referring to widespread reports of recent strains in the relationship between his country and the United States.

The foreign minister did not specifically echo Kerry's comments about Saudi support for the Israeli-PA peace process but he said an agreement that meets the PA’s aspirations "will receive the full support of Saudi Arabia".

Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah was the author of a 2002 Arab League peace initiative, which Kerry praised again Sunday as holding out the prospect for "instantaneously" reaching peace between Israel and 22 Arab nations and 35 Muslim nations who have pledged to recognize Israel if there is a deal with the PA.

The Arab peace initiative stipulates that recognition of Israel will be conditional on its withdrawal to the indefensible and narrow 1949 armistice line and its acceptance of the "Right of Return" for millions of descendants of Arabs who fled pre-state Israel, effectively bringing an end to the Jewish state.

It was recently revived when Qatar’s Prime Minister indicated that he supported a peace agreement between Israel and the PA that would be defined by the June 4, 1967 borders, but at the same time backed proposals for a "comparable and mutual agreed minor swap of the land" between Israel and the PA, to reflect the realities of the burgeoning communities on the ground.

Despite Kerry’s constant expressions of optimism regarding the peace process, there have been little signs of progress.

Both sides have reportedly rejected Kerry’s security proposals regarding the Jordan Valley, which is critical to Israel’s continued security.

Abbas has rejected the plan, and called an Arab League emergency meeting in which Arab states rejected the plan as well.

The security plan involves a slow transition from IDF patrols over the region to PA forces, with an international presence, according to reports. IDF drones would also be deployed over the area, as a means of gathering information about any terrorist activity that could potentially develop there. 

The Israeli government has insisted that the region is of crucial importance to Israel's future, and has been critical of plans to hand over the area to the PA. Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu has insisted that in the event that Israel withdrew from Judea and Samaria, as per Kerry's plans, the Jordan Valley be kept under Israeli control.

Kerry insisted on Sunday, "I can guarantee all parties that President (Barack) Obama and I are committed to putting forward ideas that are fair, that are balanced, and that improve the security of all the people of this region."

A peace treaty would deal with all the divisive core issues, including the contours of a future Palestinian state, refugees, the fate of Jerusalem claimed by both as a capital, security and mutual recognition, he said.