nytimes.com/ Kerry Says U.S. Seeks to ‘Lower the Temperature’ Between Israelis and Palestinians

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SHAFAQNA (International Shia News Association) Calling the status quo “unsustainable for both parties and for the region,” Secretary of State John Kerry said here on Tuesday that the United States was working “to lower the temperature” between Israelis and Palestinians, amid Palestinian and European efforts for United Nations Security Council resolutions that would pressure Israel on the timing and shape of peace talks.

Mr. Kerry said Washington was keeping its options open and had made “no determinations” about any resolutions on the Middle East. He spoke in a brief news conference after three days of talks with European foreign ministers and the Israeli prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, who is in the midst of an election campaign until mid-March.

With the Palestinians pushing a draft resolution through the Jordanians, and the Europeans, led by the French, drafting another, softer resolution, Mr. Kerry said that the United States was exploring where there might be common ground.

“Right now what we are trying to do is have a constructive conversation with everybody to find the best way forward,” he said, while being careful not to interfere in the Israeli political campaign. “We want to find the most constructive way of doing something that therefore will not have unintended consequences, but also can stem the violence,” he said.

Various proposals have been made for Security Council resolutions, but Mr. Kerry said “we’ve made no determinations about language, approaches, specific resolutions, any of that.” He said he understood Palestinian frustration, “but we have to carefully calibrate any steps that are taken for this difficult moment in the region.”

Later Tuesday, Mr. Kerry spoke to the lead Palestinian negotiator, Saeb Erekat, and a delegation led by the head of the Arab League, Nabil el-Araby.

The Palestinians said on Sunday that they would press for a Security Council vote on Wednesday on a resolution, proposed through Jordan, that calls for a complete Israeli withdrawal from occupied land within two years. But since then, the Palestinians have been vague about timing and may simply be pushing for a European resolution closer to the Palestinian position.

Earlier Tuesday, the French foreign minister, Laurent Fabius, met in Paris with the Arab League delegation and the former Israeli president Shimon Peres to discuss a European draft resolution, which is still being negotiated but calls for a rapid resumption of peace talks, with a two-year deadline for a settlement and “parameters for negotiations.” Mr. Fabius said that “it’s high time” for peace talks to resume and that France was seeking “a resolution that everyone can get behind.”

Mr. Peres said that the world should wait for the Israeli elections. “There is a need and time for a Palestinian state,” he said. “I think it would be better to reach it through an agreement rather than through an imposition.”

Washington prefers to wait until the elections are over and rejects any deadlines; Israel is pressing the United States to veto any Security Council action that short-circuits or limits negotiations.

But speaking to reporters on Tuesday night at a Palestine Liberation Organization dinner in Beit Jalah, in the West Bank, Mohammed Shtayyeh, a senior Palestinian leader and former negotiator, dismissed the notion of waiting until after the elections. “We are a bit concerned that certain parties are really intending to try to waste time,” he said.

Mr. Shtayyeh added that the Palestinians and Jordanians were also working with the French to try to come up with a common resolution, though significant differences remain.

Mr. Kerry also expressed American outrage at the violence in Pakistan and Australia, and said that the slide of the Russian ruble was in part a result of sanctions imposed on Russia for its annexation of Crimea and military intervention in eastern Ukraine. “The sanctions were clearly intended to invite President Vladimir V. Putin to make a different set of choices,” he said.

But in the last few days, “Russia has made constructive moves,” Mr. Kerry said. “There are some indications that whether it is line of control negotiation, or the calm that is, in fact, in place in a number of places, the withdrawal of certain people, there are signs of constructive choices.”

 

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