A ceasefire in Gaza must be the precursor to broader negotiations for a two-state solution between Israel and the Palestinians to ensure lasting peace in the region, US Secretary of State John Kerry told the BBC in an interview Tuesday night.

“You have to begin to make life better for the Palestinians,” Kerry said, adding the US supports the opening of crossings to Gaza “to get food in and reconstruct, and have greater freedom, but that has to come with a greater responsibility towards Israel, which means giving up rockets and moving into a different place.”

He stressed that a true solution in Gaza would only come together when there is “a bigger, broader approach to the underlying issues of two states” which would ensure the rights of Palestinians while guaranteeing Israel’s security.

Kerry made reviving Middle East diplomacy a central priority at the start of his term and coaxed Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas back to the negotiating table in July 2013. But in April this year, the talks collapsed as Abbas sought Palestinian membership in 15 UN conventions and reconciled with Hamas, and Israel made a surprise announcement of plans for 700 new settlements and refused to free a last batch of Palestinian prisoners which included Israeli-Arab citizens.

The secretary reiterated to the BBC America’s unflinching support for Israel’s right to defend itself against rocket-fire from Gaza.

“No country can live with that condition,” he said, “and the United States stands squarely behind Israel’s right to defend itself in those circumstances. Period.”

Hamas, he says, has “behaved in an unbelievably shocking manner engaging in this activity and, yes, there has been horrible collateral damage as a result”.

AFP contributed to this report.