Kerry, in Paris, continues Mideast peace push
PARIS (AP) — U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry held a second day of talks with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in Paris on Thursday, as he continues to press for an agreement on framework for an Israeli-Palestinian peace deal.
A day after a more than two-hour meeting, Kerry and Abbas sat down for another two-hour, closed-door session, the State Department said.
They are working to define the framework for negotiators as they seek to forge a comprehensive settlement to the conflict.
The Israelis and Palestinians agreed to resume long-stalled talks last summer with a nine-month target for a peace deal. But there have been few tangible signs of progress as the May expiration of that period looms, and so the goal has been scaled back to getting consensus on an outline for negotiations.
There was no immediate comment on any results from Kerry's two days of meetings in the French capital, although a senior Palestinian official reiterated his side's stance ahead of the meeting in a statement published on Thursday by the official Palestinian news agency WAFA.
"We will not accept any agreement, whether a framework or a final deal, unless it includes the firm Palestinian and Arab positions that are based on international resolutions," said Nabil Abu Rdeneh, a top aide to Abbas. He repeated demands that east Jerusalem must be the capital of a future Palestinian state whose borders are based in the 1967 lines, that Israeli settlements are illegal, that Palestinian prisoners must be released and that there must be a "just solution" to the issue of Palestinian refugees.
Abu Rdeneh also restated Palestinian opposition to recognizing Israel as Sa Jewish state, which is a key Israeli demand.
On Wednesday, State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf said the Obama administration was concerned by recent derogatory comments about Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu by the chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat and that Kerry would be raising the matter with Abbas.
"We've said all along that it's important to create a positive atmosphere around these discussions, that personal attacks, quite frankly, are unhelpful," she told reporters. The secretary will make clear that these kinds of comments are disappointing, that they are unhelpful, especially coming from someone involved in the negotiations, indeed the lead negotiator."