Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and US Secretary of State John Kerry met on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland on Friday and discussed the ongoing peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians.
According to Israel Radio, Netanyahu said the 90-minute meeting with Kerry went well. The prime minister noted he had no intention of evacuating any Israeli settlements from the Jordan Valley or uprooting any Israelis who live there.
“I’ve said in the past and I repeat today: I do not intend to evacuate any settlements, I don’t intend to uproot any Israeli,” Maariv quoted him saying.
Israel’s insistence on maintaining a security presence in the Jordan Valley, the area of the West Bank bordering the Hashemite Kingdom, has been a sticking point for the two sides in the six months of negotiations that began at the end of July.
Last month, the Palestinians reportedly rejected a proposal by Kerry for an Israeli security presence in the Jordan Valley for the first 10 years after the signing of a peace deal.
Netanyahu added that he isn’t ignoring the growing international boycott against Israel, and said that economic pressure won’t advance the peace process but harms it by toughening the stance of the Palestinians.
Earlier, Netanyahu had said that the principles of a framework agreement would be decided in the coming days.
Kerry, however, told Saudi news outlet Al Arabiya that he was skeptical as to whether such a framework could be solidified in the coming month.
“I’m not sure when it will be,” Kerry said. “It will be when we’re finished with the work we have to do to get there. We’re still negotiating. We’re working in good faith with both of the parties. The leaders have been very, very committed to this process. My hope is we can achieve the framework for final status negotiations. But it’s very, very difficult and we have a lot of work to do.”
The secretary of state said that if a peace agreement is not reached soon, “the risks for everybody are much greater — the risk of confrontation, the risk of violence, the risk of continued conflict.”
Last week London-based Arabic daily al-Hayat reported that Kerry was to present a memorandum of understanding between Israel and the Palestinians at a conference in Jordan at the end of the month.
Kerry and Netanyahu also reportedly spoke about the Iran and its rogue nuclear program. The prime minister said that he had met with world leaders at Davos and that the majority agreed with his position regarding the danger posed by a nuclear-armed Iran. He told Kerry that Iran has thus far spent an estimated $170 billion on its nuclear program thus far — a figure also cited by unnamed Israeli officials in November 2013.
Later Friday, Kerry was to deliver a speech in which US officials say he will counter criticism that the United States is pulling back from the Mideast.
Kerry will argue it’s a “myth” that Washington has disengaged from the region, pointing out major diplomatic initiatives with the Israelis and Palestinians, Syria and Iran.
Kerry came to Davos after attending a Syria peace conference in Montreux, Switzerland on Wednesday.
AP contributed to this report.