JERUSALEM — Secretary of State John Kerry met with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem as part of a U.S. push to revive Middle East peace negotiations, according to a State Department official.
During an almost four-hour dinner with Netanyahu that ended early Friday morning, Kerry emphasized his commitment to work with all parties to achieve peace between Israel and Palestinians, said the official, who asked not to be identified discussing the private meeting.
Kerry is traveling in the region for consultations with Israeli and Palestinian leaders aimed at bringing them back to the negotiating table for the first time in almost three years. He is to meet later Friday in Amman, Jordan, with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.
While Kerry has said he will set no deadlines for starting a new round of talks, he said June 26 that some progress toward reviving the process needs to be made “long before September,” when the next session of the U.N. General Assembly will begin.
Kerry’s efforts has been complicated by Israel’s continued moves to build settlements in the West Bank and east Jerusalem, which the State Department has called “unproductive.”
Israel approved plans on June 26 for 69 new housing units in a section of Jerusalem that was captured from Jordan in the 1967 Middle East War. Palestinians consider it occupied territory. A municipal building committee approved the permits, city spokeswoman Brachie Sprung said by telephone.
The latest move to add housing is unhelpful as the United States is urging all parties to help create a climate for peace, a State Department official said, speaking on condition of not being identified before Kerry’s meetings.
The Palestinians have refused to return to talks without a freeze in settlement construction, and they have signaled they might resume their quest at the United Nations to join the International Criminal Court.
Abbas said in a June 26 interview on Al Jazeera television that he hopes Kerry brings “something important” and new that will help narrow the gaps with Israel and lead to fresh talks. Netanyahu said this week that he’ll engage in peace negotiations if Palestinians indicate they’re willing to address all substantial issues and resolve the conflict.
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