Kerry, Arab ministers look for ways to revive peace process

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As U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry attempted on Monday to corral Israeli and Palestinian leaders into a new and ambitious peace process, an Arab ministerial committee met in the same day in Qatar to discuss ways to revive the Palestinian-Israeli stalled talks.

“I am intensely focused on this issue and the region because it is vital really to American interests and regional interests to try and advance the peace process and because this festering absence of peace is used by groups everywhere to recruit and encourage extremism,” Kerry said on Monday.

Speaking to reporters travelling with his delegation, Kerry said he believed it “would be irresponsible... not to explore thoroughly the possibilities for moving forward” as he seeks to overcome decades of mistrust between Israel and the Palestinians.

A day after meeting one-on-one with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, Kerry spent the morning of Israel’s Holocaust memorial day at Yad Vashem, laying down a red, white and blue wreath at the nation’s official monument for the 6 million Jews murdered during World War II. He met privately Monday with Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad and Israeli President Shimon Peres before a dinner with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and other Israeli officials.

Kerry said he believed peace was possible.

“I wouldn’t be back here for my multiple-whatever-umpteenth trip here as a senator and secretary, and for my third trip to the region as a secretary already,” he told staff at the U.S. Consulate in Jerusalem. “I believe that if we can get on a track where people are working in good faith to address the bottom-line concerns, it is possible to be able to make progress and make peace.”

Kerry is trying to end a 4½-year stalemate between the Israelis and Palestinians during which they’ve hardly negotiated peace at all. Making his third trip to the region in a period of two weeks, he has yet to outline any new plan but U.S. officials say he is exploring several ideas to try to corral both sides back into direct talks.

Meanwhile, an Arab ministerial committee met on Monday in Qatar to discuss ways to revive the stalled Palestinian-Israeli peace process and plans to send a mission to Washington, the Arab League chief said.

“This meeting was to discuss the mission of the Arab delegation that will visit Washington on April 29,” the organization’s secretary general, Nabil al-Arabi, told reporters.

The talks of the Arab Peace Initiative Committee were attended by Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas, and chaired by Qatari Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Sheikh Hamad bin Jassem al-Thani.

Arabi said before the meeting that the delegation would go to the U.N. Security Council in New York. It is not clear if the delegation will still visit the U.N. headquarters.

The proposal to send a delegation to New York was agreed at an Arab summit held in Doha last month.

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