TOKYO (AP) — U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said Sunday he hoped the Palestinians pick a new prime minister who can work with the United States and "establish confidence" so that Mideast peace can advance.
Speaking to journalists in Tokyo, Kerry praised Salaam Fayyad, who until resigning Saturday as prime minister was seen as one of the Palestinians' most moderate and respected figures. Kerry called Fayyad a "good friend" who made a big difference for Palestinians.
Fayyad's resignation comes as Kerry is working to revive the Israeli-Palestinian peace process. An important part of his strategy is developing the Palestinian economy and state institutions so the Palestinians can be a viable partner in any peace deal with Israel.
The United States had expected Fayyad to play a significant role in that effort.
But the 61-year-old political independent and Western-trained economist had clashed with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas over the extent of the prime minister's power.
"We're totally committed to moving forward with the economic thing no matter what," Kerry said, citing U.S. business partners including Coca-Cola. "The West Bank is there, Palestinian aspirations are there, the government is there. And in order to be a viable government, there's got to be more than one person that you can do business with."
"So we will continue to work at this and hope that President Abbas finds the right person to work with him in a transition, and work with us, to establish confidence," he added. "Everybody is going to want somebody who provides confidence."
Kerry said he preferred that Fayyad stay on the job, but that he understood Fayyad's decision.
"He's been sick, he's tired, he's been at this seven years. He has kids in school. He's anxious to carve his own path here and I respect that," Kerry said.
"But he's going to be there for a while. I had a long conversation with him. He's resigned and he accepted his resignation. But there's going to be a caretaker process for some period of time and he's not going to go away from Palestinian politics completely — if at all."