Abbas asks Kerry for US intervention in Israel-Palestinian standstill

Published February 21st, 2016 - 05:00 GMT
US Secretary of State John Kerry met with PA President Mahmoud Abbas in Amman on Sunday. (AFP / Nicholas Kamm)
US Secretary of State John Kerry met with PA President Mahmoud Abbas in Amman on Sunday. (AFP / Nicholas Kamm)

During a meeting with US Secretary of State John Kerry in Amman on Sunday, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas requested that the US intervene in the political deadlock between Israelis and Palestinians.

On the sidelines of Syrian peace talks in the Jordanian capital, Abbas also urged Kerry to demand that Israel free Palestinian hunger-striker Mohammed al-Qiq, and return the bodies of dead Palestinian attackers, according to Israeli and Palestinian reports citing PA spokesman Nabil Abu Rudeineh.

According to the reports, Abbas also told Kerry of his intention to request that the UN Security Council condemn Israel’s settlement enterprise and halt its construction projects in the West Bank.

There was no immediate statement from Kerry on his talks with Abbas, which came during a meeting in Amman convened to broker a halt in Syrian fighting.

The meeting with Abbas came days after France informed UN Security Council member states of its intention to restart the stalled Israeli-Palestinian peace efforts later this year.

According to a report by Channel 2 on Friday, the initiative seeks to broker direct negotiations between the two sides at an international peace conference scheduled for July that would include representatives from the Middle East Quartet — the US, Russia, EU and UN — and several Arab states.

France also warned that if efforts to revive the peace efforts fail, it would recognize a Palestinian state.

Palestinian officials welcomed the French proposal, but the conference idea has not been generating much enthusiasm in the international community, which is struggling to cope with far deadlier Middle East conflicts in Syria and Iraq.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu last week dismissed the nascent French initiative as “baffling” and destined for failure.

Washington, which has traditionally acted as a peace broker in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, has not taken a public position on the French plan. However, the Obama administration has recently indicated it does believe there is a possibility of achieving a peace accord in its remaining time in office.

The last Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations, mediated by Kerry, collapsed in April 2014, and the period since has been fraught with conflict.

Al-Qiq, on a three-month hunger strike to protest his detention without charge, is currently being held in an Afula hospital, with Israel refusing to release him to a medical center in the West Bank. His administrative detention is technically over, however. Israeli officials say he was held over links to terror activity.

Since last fall, a wave of Palestinian terrorism and violence has seen the killings of some 30 Israelis — the latest being Tuvia Yanai Weissman, a 21-year-old off-duty IDF soldier, who was stabbed to death by two Palestinian teenagers in a West Bank supermarket on Thursday.

The killing of Weissman, a dual US-Israeli citizen, drew harsh condemnation from Washington Friday.

There is no justification for terrorism,” a statement from the State Department read. “This horrific incident again underscores the need for all sides to reject violence, and urgently take steps to restore calm, reduce tensions, and bring an immediate end to the violence.”

Some 160 Palestinians have died in the same period, about three-quarters of them in the course of carrying out attacks against Israelis.

by Tamar Pileggi

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