News / Middle East

Kerry Cancels Meeting with Abbas Over Recognition Spat

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas talks during a leadership meeting in Ramallah, April 1, 2014
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas talks during a leadership meeting in Ramallah, April 1, 2014
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas says he is resuming a bid to win more United Nations recognition, breaking an agreement that already is threatened by Israel's refusal to release more Palestinian prisoners. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry has cancelled plans to meet with Abbas on Wednesday.

President Abbas says Palestinians are immediately restarting efforts to join 15 United Nations agencies, in a campaign that threatens U.S.-led peace talks on a two-state solution. In a televised speech from his headquarters in Ramallah,  Abbas said he was compelled to take action because Israel has again refused to release more prisoners.

Abbas says Palestinians have been promised nine times that the fourth batch of prisoners would be released. He says this afternoon was the latest promise that the Israeli government would be convening to approve that. And that did not happen.

When U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry launched this peace process eight months ago, Palestinians promised to suspend United Nations applications for greater recognition in exchange for Israel agreeing to release 104 Palestinian prisoners.

The last group of prisoners was due to be set free by the end of March. But the Israeli Cabinet has repeatedly failed to approve their release.

The Palestinian move brought no immediate comment from Israel, where officials Tuesday reissued tenders for more than 700 settler homes in East Jerusalem.

Speaking at a meeting of NATO foreign ministers in Brussels, Kerry said it is "completely premature to draw any kind of judgment, certainly any final judgment" about the day's events and where things stand.

"President Abbas has given his word to me that he will keep his agreement and that he intends to negotiate through the end of April," said Kerry.

In the last week, Kerry has twice changed his schedule to return to the region, and was planning to do so again Wednesday. But he cancelled his meeting with Abbas following the Palestinian decision to go back to the U.N.

"This is a moment to be really clear-eyed and sober about this process. It is difficult. It is emotional. It requires huge decisions, some of them with great political difficulty, all of which need to come together simultaneously," said Kerry.

No issue has more consumed this secretary of state than the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. But he says it is ultimately up to the leaders themselves to make it work.

"Facilitation is only as good as the willingness of leaders to actually make decisions when they're put in front of them. And we're going to continue to do our work. We're going to continue because this matters," he said.

The Obama administration's latest approach includes offering to release a convicted Israeli spy in exchange for Israeli concessions to Palestinians, including a freeze on Israeli settlements in disputed territories and the release of additional Palestinian prisoners.

You May Like

Amnesty: EU Failing Migrants, Refugees

Rights group says migrants, refugees subject to detention, extortion, beatings More

From South Africa to Vietnam, Cyclists Deliver Message Against Rhino Horns

Appalled by poaching they saw firsthand, sisters embark on tour to raise awareness in countries where rhino horn products are in demand More

Uber Wants Johannesburg Police Protection

Request follows recent protests outside ride-hailing service's Johannesburg office More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Getting it Done Beyond a Nuclear Deali
X
July 07, 2015 12:02 PM
If a nuclear deal is reached between Iran and world powers in Vienna, it will be a highly technical road map to be used to monitor nuclear activity in Iran for years to come to ensure Tehran does not make nuclear weapons. Equally as complicated will be dismantling international sanctions that were originally intended to be ironclad. VOA’s Heather Murdock talks to experts about the key challenges any deal will present.
Video

Video Getting it Done Beyond a Nuclear Deal

If a nuclear deal is reached between Iran and world powers in Vienna, it will be a highly technical road map to be used to monitor nuclear activity in Iran for years to come to ensure Tehran does not make nuclear weapons. Equally as complicated will be dismantling international sanctions that were originally intended to be ironclad. VOA’s Heather Murdock talks to experts about the key challenges any deal will present.
Video

Video Rice Farmers Frustrated As Drought Grips Thailand

A severe drought in Thailand is limiting the growing season of the country’s important rice crop. Farmers are blaming the government for not doing more to protect a key export. Steve Sandford reports from Chiang Mai, Thailand.
Video

Video Making Music, Fleeing Bombs: New Film on Sudan’s Internal Refugees

In 2012, Sudanese filmmaker Hajooj Kuka went to make a documentary among civil war refugees in Sudan’s Blue Nile and Nuba Mountains region. What he found surprised him: music was helping to save people from bombing raids by their own government. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more.
Video

Video 'From This Day Forward' Reveals Difficult Journey of Transgender Parent

In her documentary, "From This Day Forward", filmmaker Sharon Shattuck reveals the personal journey of her transgender father, as he told his family that he always felt he was a woman inside and decided to live as one. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Floodwaters Threaten Iconic American Home

The Farnsworth House in the Midwest State of Illinois is one of the most iconic homes in America. Thousands of tourists visit the site every year. Its location near a river inspired the design of the house, but, as VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, that very location is now threatening the existence of this National Historic Landmark.
Video

Video Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountain

Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Xenophobia Victims in South Africa Flee Violence, Then Return

Many Malawians fled South Africa early this year after xenophobic attacks on African immigrants. But many quickly found life was no better at home and have returned to South Africa – often illegally and without jobs, and facing the tough task of having to start over. Lameck Masina and Anita Powell file from Johannesburg.
Video

Video Family of American Marine Calls for Release From Iranian Prison

As the crowd of journalists covering the Iran talks swells, so too do the opportunities for media coverage.  Hoping to catch the attention of high-level diplomats, the family of American-Iranian marine Amir Hekmati is in Vienna, pleading for his release from an Iranian prison after nearly 4 years.  VOA’s Heather Murdock reports from Vienna.
Video

Video UK Holds Terror Drill as MPs Mull Tunisia Response

After pledging a tough response to last Friday’s terror attack in Tunisia, which came just days before the 10th anniversary of the bomb attacks on London’s transport network, British security services are shifting their focus to overseas counter-terror operations. VOA's Henry Ridgwell has more.
Video

Video Obama on Cuba: This is What Change Looks Like

President Barack Obama says the United States will soon reopen its embassy in Cuba for the first time since 1961, ending a half-century of isolation. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Hate Groups Spread Influence Via Internet

Hate groups of various kinds are using the Internet for propaganda and recruitment, and a Jewish human rights organization that monitors these groups, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, says their influence is growing. The messages are different, but the calls to hatred or violence are similar. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video Blind Somali Journalist Defies Odds in Mogadishu

Despite improving security in the last few years, Somalia remains one of the most dangerous countries to be a journalist – even more so for someone who cannot see. Abdulaziz Billow has the story of journalist Abdifatah Hassan Kalgacal, who has been reporting from the Somali capital for the last decade despite being blind.

VOA Blogs