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Kerry 'hopeful' can strike final Mideast peace deal
Published Friday 13/12/2013 (updated) 15/12/2013 16:07
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US Secretary of State John Kerry testifies before the House
Foreign Relations Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC,
on December 10, 2013.(AFP/File Jim Watson)
JERUSALEM (AFP) -- US Secretary of State John Kerry said Friday he hoped to help achieve a peace agreement encompassing Israeli security needs and Palestinian sovereignty, as he wrapped up his regional visit.

But President Mahmoud Abbas rejected US proposals for Israel to keep a military presence in a future Palestinian state.

"We are working on an approach that both guarantees Israel's security and fully respects Palestinian sovereignty," Kerry told reporters in Tel Aviv before boarding a plane to Vietnam.

Kerry insisted the goal remained for the sides "to reach a final status agreement -- not an interim agreement," and said Israel will release as planned a new group of Palestinian prisoners on Dec. 29.

"Both parties remain committed to fulfilling their obligations to stay at the table and negotiate hard during the nine-month period that we set for that" when talks were launched at the end of July, said Kerry.

On Friday morning, Kerry met Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for what the Israeli premier described as a discussion on how to "advance our goals of peace and security."

Kerry, who completed his second visit to the region within a week, said that US military expert General John Allen outlined in talks with Abbas a security plan for the West Bank and Israel, which could be implemented following a peace accord.

But Abbas rejected US proposals for Israel to keep a military presence in a future Palestinian state along its strategic border with Jordan, a source close to the president told AFP.

"President Abbas has rejected the ideas presented by the secretary of state," the Palestinian source said earlier Friday, a day after Kerry met Abbas in the West Bank city of Ramallah.

Abbas also handed Kerry a letter laying down "Palestinian red lines," the source added, singling out "the refusal to recognize Israel as a Jewish state."

Abbas "rejected the ideas on security because there is not a third party."

This refers to a plan by former US national security adviser James Jones under which a third party would deploy along the Palestinian-Jordanian border.

Israeli and Arab media reports say the plan envisaged by Washington would see Israel maintain a military presence on the border after a peace agreement with the Palestinians.

According to pan-Arab daily al-Quds al-Arabi, the plan also includes the deployment of early warning stations on the highest point in the West Bank, an Israeli right to deny entry to anyone through the Jordan Valley border crossing and joint Israeli-Palestinian patrols in the area.

An international force would be acceptable to the Palestinians, but Israel opposes such a solution.

Israel has always insisted that a continued military presence on the frontier would be vital for its security for some 10-15 years after Palestinian statehood.

Former Israeli national security adviser Giora Eiland wrote on Thursday in the Yediot Aharonot daily that Israel saw a potential threat as not coming necessarily from the Palestinians, but from "other enemies" in the region.

"Israel insists on having contiguous control along the Jordan River, and it seems like the Americans accept this," he wrote, saying Israel needed "a strip five kilometers (three miles) wide" to ensure its safety.

It was Kerry's ninth trip to Israel and the West Bank since March -- and his second in less than a week.

Nine-month direct talks were launched between the sides by Kerry in July, and last week he said "we are closer than we have been in years" to reaching a deal.

On Friday Kerry also said that Israel will free a new group of Palestinian prisoners in line with commitments to the US-backed peace process.

"The next tranche of the (release of Palestinian) prisoners is due to take place on the 29th of December, and it will take place then," he said.

Israel agreed to free 104 Palestinian prisoners and has already released 52 in two separate batches. The third release of another 26 inmates is expected later this month and the final group is to be freed in March 2014.
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1 ) mohamed / somalia
13/12/2013 22:34
aha mr kerry hopeful is a word of optimistic while there is a precondition on the other side the zionist side. such as recognition of jewish state.

2 ) southparkbear / usa
13/12/2013 23:16
i have full faith it is a fact. There's 1 tiny detail to discuss: which generation?
I believe 3 generations at least are needed. by that time palestinians will get a stamp authority, and a status like vatican over ramallah, nablus and possibly bethlehem

3 ) Bemused / New Zealand
14/12/2013 00:06
When Israel returns to behind the 1967 borders, and removes all its illegal settlements, then they can be considered to be negotiating in good faith. Until then, it is a nonsense.

4 ) ian / australia
14/12/2013 00:44
This is where the propaganda blitz pays off. Iranian nukes. Irrational mullahs. The existential threat from proxies in Lebanon and Gaza threatening vulnerable Israel in a pincer attack (with arms smuggled in from Iran). The West Bank as a hotbed of Salafi Jihadists etc. etc. People are lulled into thinking maybe Israel ISN'T safe. Maybe they NEED the Jordan Valley to protect them from the genocidal Arab hordes. Commonsense is kind of anaesthetised...like asking why Israel, the military

5 ) ian / australia
14/12/2013 00:45
(contd.) powerhouse in the region, CAN'T protect itself on its '67 border and why newly sovereign Palestine, a tiny, impoverished, demilitarised state, would commit suicide at its very birth by declaring war on its bellicose, nuclear neighbour.

6 ) southparkbear / us
14/12/2013 09:14
me two 00 years

7 ) Mark of Lewiston / USA
14/12/2013 09:23
Lots of talk of security for Israel. none so far in the press about the nightly raids made by the IDF into Palestinian towns and cities. Nothing about stopping 'price tag' arson. Nothing about settler attacks against Palestinian agriculture, including burning of Palestinian orchards. Are Palestinians supposed to rely on the IDF to restrain settlers and 'price taggers?' Security is a two way street. No deal can work or last without security for both sides.

8 ) Hans Hauer / Netherlands
14/12/2013 14:24
#Ian/4-5: Having read these & your previous posts on the issue, of course there will be a lot of hype, WE all live in precarious times. That said a demilitarised Palestine will be reliant on its friends & neighbours for protection on ALL sides. International peace keepers might work, but for how long? Isreal can protect its self, but joint collaboration is better for building trust. If factions & IDF commit to peace (forever friends:)) Pally, Isreal, Jordan &/or friends might be a better option.

9 ) southparkbear / usa
14/12/2013 23:43
there lies the problem Hans, Palestinians do not have peace with one another let alone with syria, jordan, lebanon and especially israel. They are not unique, look at lebanon, syria, egypt, iraq..to mention a few. now i am PC trying to figure out why these countries and people of all?

10 ) Michael 'Beau' Geste / Algiers
14/12/2013 23:56
What kind of country doesn't have any military forces to protect it.! Isreal could consider giving the IDF a well deserved rest & enlist the help of 'La Legion Entrangiere' - Now they know how to kick la derriere. However when it's gone quiet & the END of the battle comes, they will need to get new recruits through boredom, as they can't leave their post. Which lucky legionnaires will take over then, all that sun to bathe in & nothing to do? LongeR, lazy days are the besT days, if sun bathing.

11 ) Tibi / Tubas
15/12/2013 06:04
What the USA or the Arab League proposes is totally irrelevant, since - The PLO will reject Israel's demand for a military presence, etc., and - Israel will reject the PLO's demand for borders, refugees, etc., and THE 65-YEAR-OLD DISPUTE WILL GO ON FOREVER AND EVER, without all (most, & possibly any) disputed issues ever being settled.

12 ) ian / australia
15/12/2013 13:23
#8 "...a demilitarised Palestine will be reliant on its friends & neighbours for protection on ALL sides." I don't see it, Hans. Arab states tear themselves apart INTERNALLY every now and then (Syria, Egypt) and are attacked by the West (and Israel) but they don't attack each other. (Iraq/Iran was a US-instigated aberration.) Palestine has no enemies requiring "protection on ALL sides" or "international peace keepers". The "dangerous neighbourhood" full of Arab extremism is an Israeli myth.

13 ) ian / australia
15/12/2013 13:24
(contd.) NO-ONE is in danger except Syrians (from themselves) and Palestinians from strangulation in Gaza and slow dispossession in the West Bank. (Yemen and Iran are menaced constantly but that's another story.) Israel, especially, is ENTIRELY secure. Detested by its neighbours for its behaviour and lambasted colourfully, but armed to the teeth, it faces ZERO threat...there's literally NOTHING to "protect itself" from...making the whole issue of its "security" a cynical con.

14 ) ian / australia
15/12/2013 13:25
(contd.) "...but joint collaboration is better for building trust. If factions & IDF commit to peace..." ...something Israel has never shown the slightest interest in pursuing in 65 years.

15 ) Buzz / USA
15/12/2013 16:41
@9)SPB: Careful the Intel doesn't wear out, all that 'program looping' as to why! That said, it could be the heat, probably sunstroke causing a cerebral malfunction.
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