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John Kerry in ‘constructive’ Paris talks with Abbas

(AFP)
Filed on February 21, 2014

Abbas and Kerry met to continue their constructive conversations on a framework for negotiations.

US Secretary of State John Kerry held “constructive” talks in Paris with Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas meeting twice in less than 24 hours as they seek to hammer out a peace deal, a US official said on Thursday.

The two men met on Thursday for two hours swapping Abbas’s Ramallah headquarters on the West Bank where they normally meet for an upscale Parisian hotel where the Palestinian leader also hosted Kerry for dinner on Wednesday.

The top US diplomat has spent months trying to get the Israelis and the Palestinians to agree on a framework to guide talks towards a full peace treaty, but the negotiations have shown little sign of progress, with each side blaming the other.

Abbas and Kerry met “to continue their constructive conversations on a framework for negotiations,” a senior State Department official said, adding they agreed to stay in touch in the coming weeks.

Kerry late Thursday described himself as “a man who wants to try help the Israelis and Palestinians arrive at the place I think both would like to arrive at, which is peace and stability and prosperity and a future that is not cursed by conflict and rockets and soldiers and death”.

In an interview with Israel’s Channel 2 television recorded in Washington earlier this month and broadcast Thursday, Kerry said his “goal is to try help resolve something I feel in my guts is really, really important to the people of Israel.”

True to the veil of secrecy he has imposed on the talks, Kerry refused to divulge any concrete details including what the fate of settlers on occupied Palestinian lands would be under any deal.

But he alluded to the possibility that some settlers may be allowed to stay on land that would be handed over to Palestinian control.

Palestinian ambassador to France, Hael Al Fahum, told Voice of Palestine radio that in Paris Abbas “had outlined his vision of a peace which is based on international law”.

The Palestinian leader also insisted there could be no deal without east Jerusalem as the capital of a state of Palestine and “a resolution of all the issues, in particular security, refugees and the release of prisoners”.

Despite the tough talks and a barrage of personal attacks, Kerry told the Israeli television he was determined to stay the course, with both sides having agreed to keep talking until late April.

Kerry, who pushed the two sides back to the negotiating table after a three-year gap, has no immediate plans to travel back to Israel after making 11 trips during his first year in office.

But he will likely meet early next month in Washington with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on the sidelines of an annual conference organised by a powerful American-Israeli lobbying group.


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