Kerry Plans Middle East Trip 'Soon'

State Department spokesman John Kirby confirms Kerry planning a trip aimed at calming violence, won't provide more details.

Ben Ariel,

US Secretary of State John Kerry
US Secretary of State John Kerry

Secretary of State John Kerry plans to travel to the Middle East to call for calm amid a spate of violence between Israelis and Palestinians, his spokesman said Wednesday.

State Department spokesman John Kirby could not confirm the timetable nor the venue of any talks -- and played down the possibility of a revived peace process -- but said Kerry hoped to talk to local leaders.

"I think he has been very clear that he wants both sides to take affirmative actions... to de-escalate the tension, to restore calm, and to try to move forward towards a two-state solution," Kirby said, according to the AFP news agency.

"He has every intention of traveling to the region soon and I don't have anything to announce today with respect to travels," Kirby added. "Travel to the region is as specific as it can be right now."

Asked about media reports that Kerry hopes to host talks between Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority (PA) chairman Mahmoud Abbas in Jordan, Kirby said he had "nothing to report on the press reports you have seen with respect to that."

"He does remain deeply concerned by continued escalating violence. It's something he has been focused on for a while now and he intends to travel to the region to continue those kinds of discussions," Kirby told reporters.

Kirby’s comments come a day after Kerry told an audience he will travel to the region soon to try to calm violence between Palestinians and Israelis.

"I will go there soon, at some point appropriately, and try to work to reengage and see if we can't move that away from this precipice," he said, adding that the United States' goal for the region, the two-state solution, "could conceivably be stolen from everybody" if violence in the region were to spiral out of control.

Washington has so far condemned Palestinian knife and gun attacks on Israelis as "acts of terrorism" but has not blamed one side or the other for the renewal of violence, stressing that both need to work to restore calm.

On Wednesday, asked about an incident in the southern town of Dimona in which an Israeli stabbed four Palestinians and Israeli Arabs, Kirby said, "Individuals on both sides of this divide have proven capable of and, in our view, are guilty of acts of terrorism."

Meanwhile on Wednesday, an interview Kerry gave a day earlier surfaced, in which he blamed Israeli “settlements” for the latest terror wave.

"So here’s the deal. What’s happening is that unless we get going, a two-state solution could conceivably be stolen from everybody. And there’s been a massive increase in settlements over the course of the last years,” he said.

"Now you have this violence because there’s a frustration that is growing, and a frustration among Israelis who don’t see any movement. So I look at that and I say if that did explode – and I pray and hope it won’t and I think there are options to prevent that – but we would inevitably be – at some point we’re going to have to be engaged in working through those kinds of difficulties. So better to try to find the ways to deal with it before that happens than later," added Kerry.

No mention was made of the role played by violently anti-Semitic propaganda and other efforts to encourage violence by Palestinian groups spanning Hamas to the Palestinian Authority.