Fate of talks lies with Israelis, Palestinians, says Kerry
Published Thursday 15/05/2014 (updated) 16/05/2014 20:34
US Secretary of State John Kerry arrives at Stansted Airport
outside of London on May 14, 2014.(Pool/AFP Jacquelyn Martin)
LONDON (AFP) -- Only Palestinians and Israelis can decide whether to resume talks, US Secretary of State John Kerry warned Wednesday as he met President Mahmoud Abbas for the first time since the peace process collapsed.
The top US diplomat told Abbas during almost two hours of talks in London that the fate of the peace process lies in the hands of the deeply-divided parties.
"Secretary Kerry made clear that while the door remains open to peace, it is up to the parties to determine whether they are willing to take the steps necessary to resume negotiations," a senior State Department official said.
The two met in an upscale hotel for what US officials called "informal" talks, seeking to downplay any hopes of a breakthrough in Kerry's ill-fated bid to reach a long-elusive Middle East peace deal.
Israel suspended its participation in the talks on April 23 after Abbas announced the PLO was seeking a historic unity deal with the Hamas.
Kerry, who is in London for talks on Syria on Thursday, "reiterated the need for any Palestinian government to recognize Israel, commit to non-violence, and abide by previous agreements," the US official said in a statement.
He also "urged both sides to refrain from unhelpful steps."
Top US officials have already warned that any Palestinian government which includes members of Hamas would risk a freeze in hundreds of millions of dollars of US funding to the Palestinian Authority.
Under US law the government is banned from supporting groups branded as foreign terrorist organizations.
Abbas updated Kerry on his reconciliation efforts, after also meeting earlier in the day with British Prime Minister David Cameron.
"President Abbas outlined his plans for a new, technocratic Palestinian government, committed to the Quartet principles, including non-violence and the recognition of Israel," a Downing Street spokesman said.
"He also expressed his readiness to resume peace talks with Israel and his hope that this could be achieved rapidly."
Impasse likely to last
Cameron had urged Abbas to make "progress towards securing the rapid resumption of peace talks, which remain the only viable route to a lasting solution."
On Tuesday, Israeli President Shimon Peres said he hoped for a return to talks with the Palestinians.
"The negotiations with the Palestinians, led by Secretary Kerry, are currently paused but they are not finished," he told a press conference in Oslo.
"Neither side has a better alternative than peace based upon two states for two peoples. I hope that the negotiations will be re-started," he said.
But Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman told Israeli lawmakers "the impasse in negotiations with the Palestinians is expected to continue".
He accused Abbas of having "no interest to reach a deal with Israel, no matter what Israel offers him," noting past proposals of Israeli land concessions Abbas had turned down.
During the course of peace talks, Israel announced plans for thousands of settler homes and killed over 60 Palestinians. Over 1,000 were injured by Israel's military in the occupied territories.
Israel also demolished 312 Palestinian homes and detained over 3,600 Palestinians.
Ma'an staff contributed to this report