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State Department: Cutting Contacts with PA is 'Unfortunate'

State Department spokeswoman denounces Netanyahu's order to limit his cabinet's contacts with their counterparts in the PA.
By Elad Benari
First Publish: 4/10/2014, 1:16 AM

John Kerry, Jen Psaki at right
John Kerry, Jen Psaki at right
Reuters

The State Department on Wednesday denounced an order from Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu to limit his cabinet's contacts with their counterparts in the Palestinian Authority (PA) due to the PA’s violation of the conditions of the peace talks.

"We are certainly aware of the announcement. We regard it as unfortunate," State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said, according to AFP.

"We believe that cooperation between Israel and the Palestinian Authority has provided benefits to both sides," she added.

"We continue to urge both sides to take steps that contribute to a conducive environment for peace."

Earlier Wednesday, Netanyahu issued instructions to government ministries forbidding meetings with PA officials, and halting all civilian and economic cooperation with the PA.

The new instructions do not include the Defense Ministry or talks carried out as part of the Israel-PA negotiations.

Israel last Thursday informed the PA of a series of punitive measures against it, following the PA’s request to join 15 international conventions, ahead of becoming a member of various UN bodies.

As Psaki spoke to reporters, Secretary of State John Kerry met with Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman at the State Department.

Kerry reiterated to Liberman at the meeting that he had not blamed Israel Tuesday for the failure of peace talks with the Palestinian Authority, but claimed instead that he merely "described the sequence of events" and the "natural difficulties of discussing such a complex and difficult issue."

Liberman, for his part, noted that Israel is not to blame for the failure of talks - and proof is that it has signed peace treaties with both Egypt and Jordan. The issue, according to Liberman, is the PA.

Despite his claims to the contrary, Kerry was widely perceived as blaming Israel for the breakdown of peace talks in comments he made Tuesday night.

"Israel didn't release the Palestinian prisoners on the day they were supposed to be freed, and another day passed, and another day, and then another 700 settlement units were announced in Jerusalem, and 'poof'...that was sort of the moment," he stated, in front of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

The State Department immediately denied that Kerry was actually blaming Israel in the statement, but the remarks have already been met with condemnation by Israeli officials.

Psaki repeated her defense of Kerry on Wednesday and said  that he was not engaged in a "blame game" as "he "doesn't believe... that one side deserves blame over another because they've both taken unhelpful steps."