Netanyahu-Kerry upcoming meeting confirmed

PM Netanyahu and Secretary of State to meet on Sunday in Rome to discuss stalled peace efforts.

Elad Benari ,

Netanyahu and Kerry (archive)
Netanyahu and Kerry (archive)
Amos Ben Gershom/GPO

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Secretary of State John Kerry will meet on Sunday in Rome to discuss the stalled peace efforts with the Palestinians, officials on both sides confirmed Wednesday, according to AFP.

An Israeli official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Netanyahu and Kerry would tackle "issues relating to security and peace."

State Department spokesman John Kirby said several issues would be on the agenda, but observers have noted that the meeting comes ahead of a report by the Quartet on the peace process.

The group – made up of the United Nations, the European Union, the United States and Russia – is expected to be critical of Israeli policies in Judea and Samaria.

"There are plenty of issues coming up that merit Israel and the United States' discussion," Kirby said, citing regional counter-terrorism efforts and the crisis in Syria.

"The Quartet is preparing a report on the situation of the ground. It will include recommendations that will help inform international discussions on the best way to advance a two-state solution," he added, noting the report would "largely" reflect the Quartet's previous statement in September last year.

This, among other concerns, cited Israel's "ongoing settlement activity and the high rate of demolition of Palestinian structures" as "dangerously imperiling the viability" of a two-state -- one Israeli and one Palestinian -- solution.

Netanyahu and Kerry’s meeting was first reported on Sunday, but officials said at the time that no exact date or venue had yet been set and that it was uncertain whether their schedules would even enable a meeting.

The meeting comes amid increasing international activities aimed at reviving Israeli-Palestinian peace efforts, particularly the French initiative which has raised a great deal of concern in Netanyahu's bureau.

On June 3, France hosted a summit of foreign ministers in Paris who discussed ways in which the international community could "help advance the prospects for peace, including by providing meaningful incentives to the parties to make peace," 

Netanyahu has also repeatedly stated Israel’s objection to the initiative, and told French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault that it would be better if France and its partners would encourage Palestinian Authority (PA) chairman Mahmoud Abbas to accept Netanyahu’s invitation to sit down for direct negotiations.

Netanyahu recently spoke over the phone with EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini, reported AFP. And on Tuesday he called Russian President Vladimir Putin and discussed "key aspects of the Palestinian-Israeli peace process," according to a Russian statement.

The Israeli premier will also meet UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon in Jerusalem on Monday. The UN chief will be in Israel and the Palestinian Authority as part of a Middle East tour.

On Monday, EU foreign ministers backed the French initiative to organize an international conference on the Middle East, aimed at restarting Israeli-Palestinian peace talks deadlocked since 2014.

Israel reiterated its objection to the initiative after the EU ministers backed it.