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Kerry and Abbas Talks were 'Constructive', Says Official

Kerry and PA chairman "continue their constructive conversations on a framework", says American official.
By Elad Benari
First Publish: 2/21/2014, 3:12 AM

Kerry and Abbas meet in Paris
Kerry and Abbas meet in Paris
Reuters

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry held "constructive" talks in Paris with Palestinian Authority (PA) Chairman Mahmoud Abbas, an American official said Thursday, according to AFP.

The two met twice in less than 24 hours as they seek to hammer out a peace deal between the PA and Israel.

Abbas and Kerry met "to continue their constructive conversations on a framework for negotiations," a senior State Department official said, adding the two agreed to stay in touch in the coming weeks.

The PA "ambassador" to Paris, Hael al-Fahum, told Voice of Palestine radio earlier that Abbas "had outlined his vision of a peace which is based on international law". He also insisted there could be no deal without dividing Jerusalem and making it the capital of a Palestinian state and "a resolution of all the issues -- in particular security, refugees and the release of prisoners."

Kerry has remained optimistic about the talks throughout the process, stating in December that a deal was "close" despite ongoing complications and dispute over the terms from both the PA and Israel. 

In an interview which aired on Channel 2 on Thursday,  Kerry described himself as "a man who wants to try help the Israelis and Palestinians arrive at the place I think both would like to arrive at, which is peace and stability and prosperity and a future that is not cursed by conflict and rockets and soldiers and death".

He added that his "goal is to try help resolve something I feel in my guts is really, really important to the people of Israel."

In excerpts from the interview that were released Wednesday, Kerry had hinted that Jewish residents of Judea and Samaria may not be evicted from their homes when an agreement is signed.

“I’m not at all certain they will have to leave their homes,” he replied when asked what will be the personal price that residents of Judea and Samaria will have to pay for peace.

Kerry has been trying to get both sides to agree to a framework agreement, of which little details have been revealed, though Thomas Friedman of the New York Times published some alleged details of the plan, which, he said, will call for a phased Israeli withdrawal from Judea and Samaria based on the 1949 lines, with "unprecedented" security arrangements in the strategic Jordan Valley.

The Israeli withdrawal will not include certain settlement blocs, but Israel will compensate the Arab side for this with Israeli territory.

Martin Indyk, the US Envoy to the Middle East, later revealed to American Jewish leaders that 75 to 80 percent of the Jewish residents of Judea and Samaria would remain in their homes even after a permanent agreement. The agreement will include a reference to the incitement against Israel in the Palestinian Authority (PA) and will also include a reference to compensation for Jewish refugees who came from Arab countries. 

In addition, the PA would recognize Israel as a Jewish state, Israel would recognize the Palestinian state, and the two sides will announce the end of the conflict. 

In the past, the PA has refused to recognize Israel, but a senior PLO official was quoted as saying on Thursday that Abbas was prepared to recognize Israel.