News / Middle East

    Mideast Peace Talks Resume, US Urges 'Positive Atmosphere'

    Released Palestinian prisoner Nehad Jondiya hugs his sister, after 24 years spent in an Israeli jail, at his family house in Gaza City, Aug 14, 2013.
    Released Palestinian prisoner Nehad Jondiya hugs his sister, after 24 years spent in an Israeli jail, at his family house in Gaza City, Aug 14, 2013.
    Alex Villarreal
    Israelis and Palestinians returned to the negotiating table Wednesday in Jerusalem, even as Israel pursues new settlement construction in occupied territories claimed by the Palestinians. The U.S. says it has serious concerns about the activity, and is encouraging this latest round of peace talks to move forward.
     
    State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki told reporters Wednesday the U.S. position on Israel’s settlement announcements has not changed.
     
    “We don’t accept the legitimacy of continued settlement activity. These announcements come at a particularly sensitive time with the negotiations continuing in the region," said Psaki.

    Psaki says U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry stressed to both Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas Tuesday the importance of taking steps to create a “positive atmosphere” for the talks.
     
    Senior Palestinian official Yasser Abed Rabbo described Israel’s announcements this week of more than 2,000 new settlement units in East Jerusalem and the West Bank as a threat to the negotiations.
     
    But when pressed on whether the U.S. views such settlements as “illegal,” Psaki refused to say.
     
    “I’m not going to get into legal interpretations from the podium," she said.

    Secretary Kerry made headlines this week on a trip to South America when he said the U.S. views all Israeli settlements as illegitimate. But the State Department would not say whether he meant existing settlements in the West Bank and other territories - some of which have been in place for decades.
     
    Kerry said continued building is expected, a point echoed by Anthony Cordesman of the Center for Strategic and International Studies. But Cordesman said the move is indicative of a larger issue.
     
    “Announcing this type of activity - and at least tentatively the figures seem to indicate that these were settlements or new building that had already, at least, been planned - so the announcement didn’t mean quite as much as it might have.  But certainly this is not an Israeli government clearly committed with any unity to peace," said  Cordesman.
     
    Lucy Kurtzer-Ellenbogen at the United States Institute for Peace says the real question is whether the announcements will continue.
     
    “Should this mark the beginning of a steady and increasing drumbeat of more of the same, then it could have a long-term impact and there’s only so long that the Palestinians could continue to come to the table under those circumstances," said Kurtzer-Ellenbogen.
     
    Late Tuesday, ahead of the talks, Israel released 26 Palestinian prisoners, a decision welcomed by the U.S. The prisoners, hailed by Palestinians as freedom fighters, have been called “terrorists” by Israelis angered by their release.

    You May Like

    How Aleppo Rebels Plan to Withstand Assad's Siege

    Rebels in Aleppo are laying plans to withstand a siege by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s forces in likelihood the regime cuts a final main supply line running west of city

    Probe Targeting China's Statistic Head Sparks Concern

    Economists now asking what prompted government to launch an investigation only months after Wang Baoan had been vetted for crucial job

    HRW: Both Sides in Ukraine Conflict Targeted, Used Schools

    Rights group documents how both sides in Ukraine conflict carried out attacks on schools and used them for military purposes

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Russia's Car Sales Shrink Overall, But Luxury and Economy Models See Growthi
    X
    February 10, 2016 5:54 AM
    Car sales in Russia dropped by more than a third in 2015 because of the country's economic woes. But, at the extreme ends of the car market, luxury vehicles and some economy brands are actually experiencing growth. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
    Video

    Video Russia's Car Sales Shrink Overall, But Luxury and Economy Models See Growth

    Car sales in Russia dropped by more than a third in 2015 because of the country's economic woes. But, at the extreme ends of the car market, luxury vehicles and some economy brands are actually experiencing growth. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
    Video

    Video Civil Rights Pioneer Remembers Struggle for Voting Rights

    February is Black History Month in the United States. The annual, month-long national observance pays tribute to important people and events that shaped the history of African Americans. VOA's Chris Simkins reports how one man fought against discrimination to help millions of blacks obtain the right to vote
    Video

    Video Jordanian Theater Group Stages Anti-Terrorism Message

    The lure of the self-styled “Islamic State” has many parents worried about their children who may be susceptible to the organization’s online propaganda. Dozens of Muslim communities in the Middle East are fighting back -- giving young adults alternatives to violence. One group in Jordan is using dramatic expression a send a family message. Mideast Broadcasting Network correspondent Haider Al Abdali shared this report with VOA. It’s narrated by Bronwyn Benito
    Video

    Video Migrant Crisis Fuels Debate Over Britain’s Future in EU

    The migrant crisis in Europe is fueling the debate in Britain ahead of a referendum on staying in the European Union that may be held this year. Prime Minister David Cameron warns that leaving the EU could lead to thousands more migrants arriving in the country. Meanwhile, tension is rising in Calais, France, where thousands of migrants are living in squalid camps. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
    Video

    Video Valentine's Day Stinks for Lebanese Clowns

    This weekend, on Valentine's Day in Lebanon, love is not the only thing in the air. More than half a year after the country's trash crisis began, the stink of uncollected garbage remains on the streets. Step forward "Clown Me In," a group of clowns who use their skills for activism. Before the most romantic day of the year the clowns have released their unusual take on love in Lebanon -- in a bid to keep the pressure up and get the trash off the streets. John Owens reports from Beirut.
    Video

    Video Families Flee Aleppo for Kurdish Regions in Syria

    Not all who flee the fighting in Aleppo are trying to cross the border into Turkey. A VOA reporter caught up with several families heading for Kurdish-held areas of northern Syria.
    Video

    Video Rocky Year Ahead for Nigeria Amid Oil Price Crash

    The global fall in the price of oil has rattled the economies of many petroleum exporters, and Africa’s oil king Nigeria is no exception. As Chris Stein reports from Lagos, analysts are predicting a rough year ahead for the continent’s top producer of crude.
    Video

    Video 'No Means No' Program Targets Sexual Violence in Kenya

    The organizers of an initiative to reduce and stop rape in the informal settlements around Kenya's capital say their program is having marked success. Girls are taking self-defense classes while the boys are learning how to protect the girls and respect them. Lenny Ruvaga reports from Nairobi.
    Video

    Video Chocolate Lovers Get a Sweet History Lesson

    Observed in many countries around the world, Valentine’s Day is sometimes celebrated with chocolate festivals. But at a festival near Washington, the visitors experience a bit more than a sugar rush. They go on a sweet journey through history. VOA’s June Soh takes us to the festival.
    Video

    Video 'Smart' Bandages Could Heal Wounds More Quickly

    Simple bandages are usually seen as the first line of attack in healing small to moderate wounds and burns. But scientists say new synthetic materials with embedded microsensors could turn bandages into a much more valuable tool for emergency physicians. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Researchers Use 3-D Printer to Produce Transplantable Body Parts

    Human organ transplants have become fairly common around the world in the past few decades. Researchers at various universities are coordinating their efforts to find solutions -- including teams at the University of Pennsylvania and Rice University in Houston that are experimenting with a 3-D printer -- to make blood vessels and other structures for implant. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Houston, they are also using these artificial body parts to seek ways of defeating cancerous tumors.
    Video

    Video Helping the Blind 'See' Great Art

    There are 285 million blind and visually impaired people in the world who are unable to enjoy visual art at a museum. One New York photographer is trying to fix this situation by making tangible copies of the world’s masterpieces. VOA correspondent Victoria Kupchinetsky was there as visually impaired people got a feel for great art. Joy Wagner narrates her report.
    Video

    Video German Artists to Memorialize Refugees With Life Jacket Exhibit

    Sold in every kind of shop in some Turkish port towns, life jackets have become a symbol of the refugee crisis that brought a million people to Europe in 2015.  On the shores of Lesbos, Greece, German artists collect discarded life jackets as they prepare an art installation they plan to display in Germany.  For VOA, Hamada Elrasam has this report from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video E-readers Help Ease Africa's Book Shortage

    Millions of people in Africa can't read, and there's a chronic shortage of books. A non-profit organization called Worldreader is trying to help change all that one e-reader at a time. VOA’s Deborah Block tells us about a girls' school in Nairobi, Kenya where Worldreader is making a difference.