US Secretary of State John Kerry’s recent round of meetings in the region is the beginning of a new US initiative to revitalize the Middle East peace process, a senior Palestinian Authority official said Sunday.
The official, speaking on the condition of anonymity, told AFP that “the US push for finding a solution has begun” following the secretary of state’s visit to the region this past week.
Kerry “did not want to impose any ideas for now on the two sides, and has no specific plan as yet,” according to the Palestinian official. But the official added that the US “will, in the next two months, present a plan of action to the two sides for the next political steps.”
Israeli Justice Minister Tzipi Livni, who is slated to head Israel’s negotiating team with the Palestinians, was also very enthusiastic Sunday about Kerry’s efforts, describing his as “very determined, very energetic and very committed to the two-state solution.”
Chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat said Sunday that PA President Mahmoud Abbas was ready to restart the peace process only if talks are based on the recognition of pre-1967 lines.
Kerry arrived in Israel on Tuesday, a day ahead of President Barack Obama, and accompanied the president in Israel and the West Bank from Wednesday to Friday, before joining him in visiting King Abdullah II in Jordan on Friday.
When Obama left, Kerry met separately on Saturday with Abbas and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to talk about putting an end to the negotiating deadlock of the last four years.
The sticking point keeping the Palestinians from returning to the negotiating table is Israel’s settlement policy.
Abbas has said that he won’t resume talks without an Israeli construction freeze, but as of recent days, he is rumored to be willing to accept a private promise from Netanyahu to stop building, possibly forgoing a more public policy announcement.
Netanyahu has thus far refused to halt construction and instead calls for an immediate return to negotiations, without preconditions. In an apparent reversal of US policy, Obama sided with Israel’s position last week, saying that talks toward a “broad agreement” should resume without preconditions.