Kerry agreed to attend an upcoming French-hosted meeting of foreign ministers aimed at restarting Israeli-Palestinian peace talks, despite Israeli opposition.
Speaking to reporters at NATO headquarters in Brussels, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry told French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault on Thursday that he would participate in the event on June 3 despite Israeli opposition to the plan, which would also involve a larger international conference on the Middle East this summer.
Kerry had been coy about attending the meeting and his comments were the first confirmation that he would go. He said restarting the peace process or at least keeping a path open to doing so remained a priority for the United States and others.
“I certainly intend to be helpful and cooperative in a cooperative way that makes sense with the parties in order to encourage them to come to the table,” Kerry said. “I will work with the French, I will work with the Egyptians, I will work with the Arab community, I will work with the global community in good faith in an effort to see if we can find a way to help the parties see their way to come back and ultimately see their way to a final status agreement that meets the needs of the parties, the needs of the region and provides for peace and stability.”
“It’s an enormously high priority and President Obama is committed to it and so am I,” he added.
The French had initially proposed the meeting for May 30, the Memorial Day holiday in the United States, but agreed to delay it to allow Kerry to attend.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has said that the French conference was “mystifying,” considering the threat made by France that if negotiations fail, it will unilaterally declare a Palestinian state.
The Palestinian Authority is welcoming the conference, although PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas has stated on several occasions his refusal to negotiate with the Israeli leadership, instead pushing at the UN for unilateral recognition of a Palestinian state. Netanyahu insists that the conflict could be resolved only through direct Israeli-PA negotiations.
The Obama administration, despite its abysmal failure in bringing about an Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement after intense negotiations, continues to be intent on pushing through a deal. After more than a year of shuttle diplomacy to bring the Israeli and Palestinian sides together before an April 19, 2014, deadline and after having been described by diplomatic sources as being “out of touch with reality,” Kerry had finally acknowledged the deadlock at the time, conceding that “it’s reality-check time.”
Kerry’s latest decision to attend the conference is seen by some observers as stabbing Israel in the back, and not for the first time.
On Thursday, Kerry defended his consistent attempt to bring about an agreement, apparently placing the blame for the failure on both sides.
“It is not the failure of the United States or any other country to bring people back to the table,” he claimed. “It is the failure of those countries themselves to make the decision to come back to the table.”
By: AP and United with Israel Staff