MADRID (AP) — US Secretary of State John Kerry said Monday that there is no need for a French proposal for an international presence at the Temple Mount.
Instead, he said what is needed is clarity over pledges by Israel to maintain the status quo at the Jerusalem hilltop compound revered by Jews as the site of the Jewish Temples that is also home to the Al-Aqsa Mosque. Tensions over the site are seen as a key factor in the recent escalation of violence.
“We don’t contemplate any change, but nor does Israel,” Kerry told reporters at a news conference in Madrid. “Israel understands the importance of that status quo. What is important is to make sure everybody understands what that means. We are not seeking some new change. We are not seeking outsiders or others to come in.”
“We need to have clarity,” he said.
The current outbreak of violence — which has featured some 30 stabbings and other terror attacks by Palestinians this month — was fueled by rumors that Israel was plotting to take over the area, where Jews can currently visit but not pray. Israel has adamantly denied the allegations, saying there are no plans to change the status quo, and has accused the Palestinians of incitement by spreading the rumors.
France has proposed action at the United Nations that could see an international presence to ensure the status quo at the site.
Kerry noted that not only are the US and Israel opposed to the move, so is Jordan, which governs the agreement regarding the site.
Kerry, who is meeting this week with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and Jordan’s King Abdullah, said they would be looking “to be able to find a way of making certain that everybody is clear with what is happening with respect to the Temple Mount.”
He said it is imperative that all sides take urgent action to end the “senseless” violence taking place in Israel and the West Bank.
Kerry, who plans to see Netanyahu in Berlin later this week and meet with Abbas in Jordan over the weekend, called on all sides to exercise restraint and refrain from actions that could escalate the situation.
He also pushed back on suggestions that diplomacy should take a back seat to the immediate goal of restoring stability.
“Security and diplomacy go hand in hand,” Kerry said. “There is not a time for one and then the other. There is an importance to both.”
In addition to his meetings with Abbas and Netanyahu, Kerry also said he would be meeting this week in Europe with the foreign ministers of Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Russia to discuss the crisis in Syria and the need for a political transition to end the conflict.
Times of Israel contributed to this report.