Kerry meets Palestinian, Israeli leaders after Obama visit

Reuters News
Posted: Mar 23, 2013 4:10 PM
Kerry meets Palestinian, Israeli leaders after Obama visit

JERUSALEM (Reuters) - U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry met Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem on Saturday after earlier talking to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in Jordan in a bid to revive stalled peace talks.

Kerry's back-to-back meetings followed up on U.S. President Barack Obama's visits to Israel and the Palestinian Territories this week in which he called for fresh diplomatic efforts but offered no new peace proposals of his own.

Kerry, who had accompanied Obama on his trip and then stayed on in the region, met privately for two hours with Abbas in Jordan's capital of Amman, a Palestinian source told Reuters.

A State Department official said earlier that Kerry planned "to continue the conversations they started with President Obama and the secretary earlier this week".

Neither side issued formal statements after Kerry's meeting with Abbas, and their senior aides declined initially to divulge any details.

A Palestinian source speaking on condition of anonymity said the talks had focused on "trying to find common ground between both sides to see if there is ground to resume peace talks", and cautioned against expecting any quick results.

"It could take some time" to achieve a formal resumption of negotiations, the source said.

Peace talks ran aground in late 2010 in a dispute over Jewish settlement building in land Israel captured in a 1967 war. Palestinians seek this land for a state.

In Jerusalem, Kerry was photographed meeting Netanyahu and later issued a brief written statement saying they had discussed the budding reconciliation between Israel and Turkey.

Obama on Friday engineered a call between Netanyahu and Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan, enabling the two U.S. allies to overcome a diplomatic crisis sparked by the deaths of nine Turks in 2010 during an Israeli commando raid off the Gaza Strip.

Israel apologized to Turkey on Friday for killing the nine Turkish citizens in its naval raid on a Gaza-bound flotilla and the two feuding U.S. allies agreed to normalize relations.

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The rapprochement could help regional coordination to contain spillover from the Syrian civil war and ease Israel's diplomatic isolation in the Middle East as it faces challenges posed by Iran's nuclear program.

"The reconciliation between Israel and Turkey is a very important development that will help advance the cause of peace and stability in the region," Kerry said in the statement. "This will help Israel meet the many challenges it faces in the region."

Obama promised that Kerry, Washington's new top diplomat, would dedicate time and energy to the Israeli-Palestinian problem, one in which the president failed to make progress during his first term.

(Reporting by Matt Spetalnick and Arshad Mohammed in Amman, Ali Sawafta in Ramallah and Allyn Fisher-Ilan in Jerusalem; Editing by Stephen Powell)