The Al-Quds Newspaper has reported that U.S. Secretary of State, John Kerry, is working on holding a meeting next week between senior Israeli and Palestinian officials, in an attempt to resume the stalled political process.The paper said that Kerry has been conducting “extensive efforts”, especially over the last two weeks, in an attempt to arrange a “summit that aims at restarting direct peace negotiations without preconditions”.
It quoted an anonymous U.S. source stating that the summit would bring together U.S. President, Barack Obama, Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, Palestinian President, Mahmoud Abbas, and United Nations Secretary General, Ban Ki-moon. However, the efforts to restart talks yielded no positive outcome.
The source said that “both Israel and the Palestinian Authority are placing preconditions, an issue that is hindering the prospects of resuming the direct talks”.
Kerry then decided to arrange a meeting that would be held in the second week of July, bringing together chief Palestinian negotiator, Dr. Saeb Erekat, with Israeli Justice Minister and chief negotiator, Tzipi Livni, along with Catherine Ashton of the European Union, in addition to Jeffrey D. Feltman, the Under-Secretary for Public Affairs at the United Nations.
U.S Middle East Envoy, David Hale, is trying to arrange the meeting, or even a series of meetings, in direct cooperation with Kerry and his senior Middle East Advisor, Frank Lowenstein.
The U.S. source told the paper that Kerry has not given up on the possibility of restarting peace talk without preconditions.
The source said that Washington is actively acting on holding a peace summit in Washington before the end of June “despite the fact that the U.S. is busy with the Syrian crisis, and the arrangements for the Second Geneva Conference”, according to the source.
On her part, Jennifer Psaki, a State Department spokesperson, did not confirm or deny preparations for this meeting, but stated that “Kerry clearly stated the time has come to move forwards.”
“Kerry was clear in his statement on Friday (May 24) and Sunday (May 26)”, she said, “He stated that the two parties (Israel and the Palestinians) must make difficult decisions, he knows the challenges both sides face”.
Psaki also stated that Kerry is conducting serious efforts, and added that the official believes peace is possible, “but we are in a crucial and critical stage that requires the right and difficult choices”.
As for the most recent Israeli decision to build more than 1000 units in Israeli settlements in occupied Jerusalem, a decision that was made after Kerry visited the region, Psaki said that the U.S. strongly believes that settlement activities do not help in creating a positive atmosphere for resuming peace talks.
“We have repeatedly warned the two sides about the consequences of unilateral moves”, she added.
Psaki was referring to the recent Israeli approval of the construction of 300 units in Ramot settlement, and 797 units in Gilo settlement.
Israeli Housing Minister, Uri Ariel, approved construction bids in the two settlements. Ariel is also a settler, a hardliner of the Jewish Home party, and the former head of the Yesha Council of Settlements.