JERUSALEM: United States (US) Secretary of State John Kerry insisted on Thursday (Friday in Manila) that Israel’s security is a top priority for Washington, both in nuclear talks with Iran and peace talks with the Palestinians.
Kerry held a day of talks with Israeli and Palestinian leaders aimed at driving forward peace negotiations which appear to have made little headway since beginning under his patronage in July.
A senior Palestinian official described the negotiations as being at “a very difficult” stage.
But Iran was also a central issue when Kerry met Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for more than three hours in their first face-to-face meeting since their political falling out over the Iran nuclear deal.
“I can’t emphasize enough that Israel’s security in this negotiation [with Iran]is at the top of our agenda,” Kerry said at a joint news conference in Jerusalem.
“The United States will do everything in our power to make certain that Iran’s nuclear program of weaponisation possibilities is terminated.”
Kerry stressed the two men had also spent “a very significant amount of time” discussing the peace talks with the Palestinians.
“Israel’s security is fundamental to those negotiations,” he said.
The US top diplomat reiterated the importance of security after a three-hour meeting with Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas in the West Bank city of Ramallah.
“We are not going to discuss this further publicly,” Kerry told reporters afterwards, saying only that their discussions on security had made “progress.”
“The interests are very similar, but there are questions of sovereignty, questions of respect and dignity, which are obviously significant to the Palestinians, and for the Israelis very serious questions of security.
“Shortly, perhaps in a week or so, I may return for further discussions, depending on where we are,” Kerry added.
Abbas himself made no appearance after the meeting.
‘Situation still very difficult’
“Abbas met Kerry for four hours . . . and discussed issues including security,” said Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erakat.
“We hope Israel will stick to its commitments and be forced to stop settlement building. Settlements are the reason for the difficulties in negotiations,” Erakat said.
“The situation is still very difficult and matters are complicated.”