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

Obama: I Will Do 'Everything I Can' to Close Guantanamo

US president says prison continues 'to inspire jihadists and extremists around the world' More

Sierra Leone Educates on Safe Ebola Burials

Also, country is improving at rapid response to isolated outbreaks, but health workers need to be even faster, officials say More

Christmas Gains Popularity in Vietnam

Increasingly wealthy Vietnamese embrace holiday due to its non-religious glamor, commercial appeal More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
US Decision on Cuba Underscores Divisions Among Miami Cubansi
X
Sharon Behn
December 19, 2014 9:34 PM
For decades, older, more conservative Cubans have been gathering at Café Versailles on the corner of Calle Ocho to eat Cuban food and talk politics. After hearing of President Barack Obama’s decision, a number of them gathered in front of the café with posters to protest. VOA's Sharon Behn reports on the situation.
Video

Video US Decision on Cuba Underscores Divisions Among Miami Cubans

For decades, older, more conservative Cubans have been gathering at Café Versailles on the corner of Calle Ocho to eat Cuban food and talk politics. After hearing of President Barack Obama’s decision, a number of them gathered in front of the café with posters to protest. VOA's Sharon Behn reports on the situation.
Video

Video Three Cities Bid for Future Obama Presidential Library

President Barack Obama still has two years left in his term in office, but the effort to establish his post-presidential library is already underway. The bid for the Obama Presidential Library is down to four locations in three states -- New York, Hawaii, and Illinois. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, each of them played an important part in the president’s life before he reached the White House.
Video

Video Cuba Deal is Major Victory for Pope’s Diplomatic Initiatives

Pope Francis played a key role in brokering the US-Cuba deal that was made public earlier this week. It is the most stunning success so far in a series of peacemaking efforts by the pontiff. VOA religion reporter Jerome Socolovsky has more.
Video

Video Fears of More Political Gridlock in 2015

2014 proved to be a difficult year politically for President Barack Obama and a very good year for the U.S. Republican Party. Republican gains in the November midterm elections gave them control of the Senate and House of Representatives for the next two years -- setting the stage for more confrontation and gridlock in the final two years of the Obama presidency. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone has a preview from Washington.
Video

Video Sudan School Becomes Target of Aerial Attacks

The school dropout rate is at an all-time high in Sudan's South Kordofan state because many schools have been destroyed during the three-year civil war between the government and SPLA-N rebel forces. Adam Bailes visited Sudan's Nuba Mountains' region and reports many children are simply too scared to go to school
Video

Video VOA Reporter Tours Devastated Peshawar School

Islamist militants wearing military uniforms and strapped with explosives attacked a military run school Tuesday in the northwestern Pakistani city of Peshawar. At least 141 people were killed in the horrific attack, most of them young students. VOA reporter Ayaz Gul visited the devastated school and attended the funeral of the principal who courageously tried to save her students from the deadly attack.
Video

Video Nigerians Fleeing Boko Haram Languish in Camp Near Capital

In its five-year effort to impose Islamic law in northeastern Nigeria, the Boko Haram extremist group has killed thousands of people and forced hundreds of thousands to flee. Some of those who ran for their lives now live in squalor on the edges of the capital, Abuja. Chris Stein reports for VOA.
Video

Video Aceh Rebuilt Decade After Tsunami, But Scars Remain

On December 26, 2004 there was an earthquake in the Indian Ocean so powerful it caused the Earth’s axis to wobble a few centimeters. Onshore on the island of Sumatra, the resulting tsunami was devastating. A decade later, VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Banda Aceh, Indonesia, where although there is little remaining evidence of the physical devastation, the psychological scars among survivors remain.

All About America

AppleAndroid