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Middle east

Kerry expects Mideast peace talks ‘next week’

© AFP

Text by FRANCE 24

Latest update : 2013-07-20

US Secretary of State John Kerry, who finished his Middle Eastern trip on Friday, announced his talks with Israeli and Palestinian negotiators had progressed and that peace talks in Washington were to happen “in the next week or so.”

After four days of intense diplomacy by US Secretary of State John Kerry, the office of Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas said on Friday they had achieved “progress” towards resuming peace talks with Israel.

“Abbas’s meeting with Kerry in his headquarters in Ramallah on Friday evening achieved progress, and will facilitate an agreement on the basis of a resumption of talks,” presidency spokesman Nabil Abu Rudeina said in a statement.

But he stressed there were still “specific details that need to be resolved,” without saying what these were.

Talks to begin 'soon'

Kerry announced that the chief negotiatiors for both sides - Israeli Justice Minister Tzipi Livni and the Palestinians' Saeb Erakat - would meet him “to begin initial talks in the next week or so,” reported France 24’s Philip Crowther in Washington.

New Israeli-Palestinian peace talks, if resumed, would take months, an Israeli official told Reuters on Friday. Kerry announced the sides had laid the groundwork for negotiations.

“We are talking about months, both to ensure the process is substantive and comprehensive, and to get us past September,” the official said, on condition of anonymity.

France 24’s correspondent in Jerusalem, Gallagher Fenwick, said “the situation still seems extremely tense and quite complicated at this point”.

Talks have stuttered and started for decades in the elusive bid to reach a final peace deal between the Arab world and Israel.

But they collapsed completely in September 2010 when Israel refused to keep up a freeze on settlement building in Palestinian territories.

The other side of the deal

The Islamist Hamas rulers of the Gaza Strip Friday rejected a return to Israeli-Palestinian peace talks.

“Hamas rejects Kerry’s announcement of a return to talks and considers the Palestinian Authority’s return to negotiations with the occupation to be at odds with the national consensus,” Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri told AFP.

West Bank-based Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas’ spokesman had hailed Kerry’s late Friday announcement that peace talks would resume “in the next week” as “progress,” but said details of the basis for negotiations still needed to be fleshed out.

“There has been very little information from Kerry or any official source within the Obama admininistration as to what might have been in this deal to get both side back on the negociating table,” said France 24’s Crowther.

If the two sides do indeed sit down together in the coming days, they would face the same array of problems that have confounded progress in years of on-off talk, like the pre-war 1967 border lines, or the Israeli settlements, wrote Reuters.

A small victory

Overall, the outcome of Kerry’s trip is “what his team and the state department would consider a success,” said France 24’s correspondent Philip Crowther, adding he was not quite sure we could call the talks “direct peace negotiations” as of yet.

Still, this is good news for Kerry who extended his trip to the Middle East this week, and there was a round of applause for Kerry from his team when he got back on the plane towards Washington on Friday.

“If not a triumph, this is still a victory for Kerry,” said Phillippe Gassot in Washington for France 24. “The fundamental issues remain the same, but we’re moving forward.”

(FRANCE 24 with wires)
 

Date created : 2013-07-19

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