Kerry heading here to try to restart peace talks

Incoming secretary of state says ‘progress’ is needed; Likud minister says negotiations with the Palestinians are on the next government’s agenda

John Kerry will head back to Capitol Hill to brief the full Senate on Thursday (photo credit: AP/J. Scott Applewhite/File)
John Kerry will head back to Capitol Hill to brief the full Senate on Thursday (photo credit: AP/J. Scott Applewhite/File)

Senator John Kerry, as US secretary of state, will soon try to restart the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, the American Ambassador to Israel Dan Shapiro told Army Radio on Friday.

Shapiro said Kerry would be working to implement US policy which supports two states for two peoples.

The US envoy was echoing Kerry’s remarks during Senate confirmation hearings on Thursday, where the senator reacted to the results of Knesset elections in Israel.

“There were elections yesterday and we still don’t know which government its going to be,” Kerry said, adding, “I pray that maybe this will be a moment that will allow us to renew the effort to bring the parties to the negotiating table and go down a different path than the one they were on in the last few years. I would like to try and do that.”

Kerry was adamant that a reengagement by the US in the peace process was vital. He said that unilateral moves were counterproductive, “and we oppose them,” and that what was needed was “real negotiations, real results; we need progress.”

Kerry will almost certainly be confirmed as the US’s top diplomat. He is expected to visit Israel and the Palestinian Authority as early as next month, according to Israeli officials.

Likud minister Silvan Shalom indicated on Friday that a new government, led by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, would be engaged in dialogue with the Palestinians.

“The effort to renew political negotiations with the Palestinians is one of the principles of the government we will form, and everyone, including Shas, is invited,” Shalom said.

Peace talks have been stalled for years, with the Palestinians saying they will only resume negotiations if Israel agrees to halt settlement construction and accepts the pre-1967 lines as the basis for a future Palestinian state.

Last November, the Palestinian Authority petitioned the UN General Assembly for non-member observer state status, a unilateral measure that the GA approved overwhelmingly. Since the UN vote, Israel has announced expanded plans to build residential units in several controversial areas, such as the E1 corridor connecting East Jerusalem to the West Bank.

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