US Secretary of State John Kerry spent Sunday jetting around the Middle East and attempting to shore up support for a US framework plan for Israeli-Palestinian peace, calling the endeavor a challenge that could still fall apart.
Kerry, meeting in Saudi Arabia with King Abdullah, said Riyadh would back American efforts to reach a deal between the sides.
“I am grateful that the Arab League as a whole and Saudi Arabia individually will be significantly involved in helping build support for this effort,” Kerry said at the Riyadh airport prior to his departure. “Today his majesty was not just encouraging, but supported our efforts in the hopes that we can be successful in the days ahead.”
Kerry said after his meeting with the Saudi leader that Abdullah’s 2002 initiative “has been part of the framework that we’ve been piecing together — both in inspiration and substance.”
The Saudi leader developed an initiative in 2002 in which the Arab world offered comprehensive peace with Israel in exchange for a full pullout from all territories it captured in the 1967 Mideast war.
The initiative, revolutionary when it was introduced, has been endorsed by the Arab League and, technically, remains in effect.
“Saudi Arabia’s initiative holds out the prospect that if the parties could arrive at a peaceful resolution, you could instantaneously have peace between the 22 Arab nations and 35 Muslim nations, all of whom have said they will recognize Israel if peace is achieved,” Kerry said.
“Imagine how that changes the dynamics of travel, of business, of education, of opportunity in this region, of stability. Imagine what peace could mean for trade and tourism, what it could mean for developing technology and talent, for job opportunities for the younger generation, for generations in all of these countries,” Kerry said.
Earlier on Sunday, Kerry flew to Amman, Jordan, and held more than an hour of talks with Jordan’s King Abdullah II and Foreign Minister Nasser Judeh. In addition to discussing the Israeli-Palestinian peace talks, Kerry reportedly raised other regional issues, including the civil war in Syria, increasing unrest in Iraq, and the Iranian nuclear program.
In a press conference held in Jerusalem on Sunday morning, Kerry called his trip “a productive couple of days with very, very intensive talks.” He also said that both Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had made “important… and courageous decisions, difficult decisions,” but declined comment on the content of those decisions.
Speaking before taking off from Jerusalem, Kerry likened the bid, to reach a historic deal between Israel and the Palestinians, to an enigma.
“In the end, all of these core issues fit together like a mosaic, like a
puzzle and you can’t separate out one piece or another,” he said, adding that “the last pieces may decide to fall into place, or may fall on the floor, and leave the puzzle unfinished.”
As of yet, no confirmed concrete details of the framework agreement proposed by the US have come to light.
Kerry will return to Israel Sunday night and is expected to stay for a few days before returning to Washington.