May 23, 2013
Kerry, Hague try to Revive Mideast Talks
The top diplomats of the United States and Britain have made a joint attempt to revive Israeli-Palestinian peace talks by shuttling between Jerusalem and Ramallah to meet the leaders of both sides.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and British Foreign Secretary William Hague held separate meetings with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Thursday, saying they hope to make progress in restarting the negotiations.
Kerry later met with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in Ramallah while Hague was due to meet the Palestinian leader shortly afterward.
Kerry praised what he called Mr. Netanyahu's "seriousness" and "personal energy" in trying to find a path to Israeli-Palestinian peace talks, which have been largely frozen since late 2008.
The top U.S. diplomat said he understands skepticism and even cynicism in the region about the long-stalled peace talks.
"There have been bitter years of disappointment. It is our hope that by being methodical, careful, patient, but detailed and tenacious, that we can lay out a path ahead that can conceivably surprise people (and) certainly exhaust the possibilities of peace."
Mr. Netanyahu told Kerry that Israel wants to restart the peace talks "above all" and hopes the Palestinians want to do the same, adding that "where there is a will, we will find a way."
Mr. Abbas says he will not negotiate with Israel until it suspends Jewish settlement construction on occupied land in the West Bank and East Jerusalem - areas Palestinians claim for an independent Palestinian state.
Mr. Netanyahu has said settlement construction will continue and he is ready to negotiate without preconditions.
British Foreign Secretary Hague began his meeting with Mr. Netanyahu by saying London will support Kerry's Mideast peace efforts.
"We urged all parties to move the process forward and to really give the bold and decisive leadership that will allow success to happen and avoid steps that undermine it and I welcome Prime Minister Netanyahu's clear commitment to a two-state solution.''
Speaking alongside Hague, the Israeli prime minister also raised the issue of Iran's controversial nuclear program.
"Despite the economic and diplomatic pressures, the international community has so far been unable to prevent Iran from pursuing its nuclear weapons program. Obviously this is the biggest challenge facing us. I think it is the biggest challenge of our times."
Israel, Britain and other Western powers accuse Iran of trying to develop nuclear weapons under cover of a civilian energy program. Tehran says its nuclear activities are peaceful.
Hague traveled to Ramallah later Thursday for talks with Mr. Abbas.