Kerry heading to region, looking to convene Netanyahu, Abbas summit

US hoping to ease tensions amid escalating violence, said planning to tell Israel to curb settlements; Jerusalem indicates willingness for meet

In this July 29, 2013 file photo, Secretary of State John Kerry, left, sits across from Israeli and Palestinian negotiators at the State Department in Washington. (AP/Charles Dharapak, File)
In this July 29, 2013 file photo, Secretary of State John Kerry, left, sits across from Israeli and Palestinian negotiators at the State Department in Washington. (AP/Charles Dharapak, File)

US Secretary of State John Kerry is reportedly pushing to convene a summit in Jordan with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas in a bid to calm violence wracking Israel and the Palestinian territories in recent weeks.

According to a Channel 10 report Wednesday, the Jordanians have apparently already agreed to host the gathering, in which Abbas and Netanyahu would each meet with the American diplomat separately. There was no indication of when the meeting would take place.

The White House and State Department said Wednesday that Kerry would head to the region “soon” but that details were not yet determined. Officials familiar with the planning said Kerry would like to meet Netanyahu and Abbas separately in the Jordanian capital of Amman. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the planning publicly.

The push by the American government came as violence between Israel and the Palestinians has spiked, with terrorist attacks, shootings and violent riots taking place daily in the past two weeks.

The Channel 10 report said that Washington was considering demanding a halt in settlement construction by Israel.

Sources close to Kerry claimed that he will tell Netanyahu that if he’s interested in renewing peace talks with the Palestinians — as he expressed in his UN General Assembly speech last month — that it would be a welcome move.

Peace talks broke down in March 2014 amid mutual recriminations by Israeli and Palestinian officials over failure to abide by commitments to the negotiations.

The Prime Minister’s Office wasn’t immediately available for comment. Sources in Jerusalem said they were unaware of the plan for the summit, but indicated a general willingness.

Earlier in the day, Netanyahu expressed willingness to return to talks with the Palestinians immediately.

“Israel wants peace. I want peace. I want to resume negotiations immediately and without any preconditions,” Netanyahu said at a special Knesset session.

State Department spokesman John Kirby could not confirm the timetable nor the venue of any talks — and played down the possibility of a revived peace process — but said Kerry hoped to talk to local leaders.

“He has every intention of traveling to the region soon and I don’t have anything to announce today with respect to travels,” Kirby said. “Travel to the region is as specific as it can be right now.”

Asked about media reports that Kerry hopes to host talks in Jordan, Kirby said he had “nothing to report on the press reports you have seen with respect to that.”

“He does remain deeply concerned by continued escalating violence. It’s something he has been focused on for a while now and he intends to travel to the region to continue those kind of discussions,” he said.

On Tuesday, Kerry linked the ongoing violence to settlement construction during a talk in Boston.

“There’s been a massive increase in settlements over the course of the last years,” Kerry said during a question-and-answer session, “and there’s an increase in the violence because there’s this frustration that’s growing.”

Abbas said Wednesday he favors “peaceful, popular resistance” against Israeli occupation, amid a two-week wave of violence that has killed more than 30 people on both sides, a toll that includes several Palestinian attackers.

In a speech broadcast on official Palestinian television, his first since the outbreak of the violence, Abbas spoke of the Palestinian people’s “right to defend ourselves” and “pursue our national struggle.”

He accused Israel of “executing” a 13-year old who earlier this week stabbed and critically wounded an Israeli boy in Jerusalem’s Pisgat Zeev, and said the Palestinians “will not agree to Israel’s policy of occupation.” Israel Police on Wednesday released video footage showing the stabbing attack.

AFP and AP contributed to this report

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