Kerry to update Arab League on Israel-Palestinian talks

Jordan tells US secretary of state it will refuse to be involved in interim deal unless Palestinian refugee issue addressed

John Kerry meeting in Saudi Arabia, Sunday, January 5 2014. (photo credit: US State Department)
John Kerry meeting in Saudi Arabia, Sunday, January 5 2014. (photo credit: US State Department)

Secretary of State John Kerry will travel to Kuwait next week to meet with representatives of the Arab League’s Arab Peace Initiative committee to discuss the ongoing peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians.

According to a State Department statement released Wednesday, Kerry will fly to Paris and Kuwait from January 11-15 and update the Arab League “on the ongoing final status negotiations between the Israelis and Palestinians, as part of his continued engagement with our Arab League partners on the issue.”

The statement came shortly after a Palestinian news outlet reported that the US is exploring the possibility of altering language in the 2002 Arab Peace Initiative to include recognition of Israel as a Jewish State should the country reach a peace deal with the Palestinians. Al-Ayyam, citing Western sources, said the US negotiating team is investigating the possibility.

Kerry called the peace initiative a key part of a US-drafted framework agreement meant to be presented to the Israelis and Palestinians in the coming weeks. The deal would set parameters for future talks and allow the sides to keep negotiating past the April deadline for the current round of talks.

Kerry left Israel Monday after an intensive weekend of shuttle diplomacy between Jerusalem, Ramallah, Riyadh and Amman, meeting with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia and Jordan’s King Abdullah II.

Kerry said Abdullah in Saudi Arabia had given his backing to Kerry’s peace push.

However, Jordanian Prime Minister Abdullah Ensour said in a speech before parliament that the king told Kerry that Amman would refused to be involved in any framework agreement so long as the issue of Palestinian refugees in the Hashemite Kingdom is not discussed, Channel 10 reported. Approximately 70 percent of Jordan’s population is Palestinian.

Abdullah explained that Jordan must be involved in an interim agreement between the Israelis and Palestinians because it will also be affected by its consequences.

According to the Jordanian news website al-Bawaba, Ensour and Foreign Minister Nasser Judeh “asserted that Jordan will not accept any solution to the Mideast conflict that would compromise its strategic interests.”

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.

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