Palestinian leader says ball in Israel’s court to revive talks

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Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas said Tuesday the “ball is in Israel’s court” concerning a resumption of peace talks that the U.S. is pushing for, ahead of a visit by Secretary of State John Kerry, AFP reported.

“Kerry is exerting strenuous efforts... to come to a solution” to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Abbas told a news conference in Ramallah.

“I believe the ball is now in Israel’s court.

“The Palestinian demands are clear, and the Israelis know them as do the Americans, so Israel must now accept them in order to begin negotiations,” said Abbas.

Palestinian demands for a return to talks, which stalled in September 2010, include an end to Israeli settlement building in the West Bank and annexed east Jerusalem.

Meanwhile, Kerry warned on Monday that time was running out for efforts to revive Middle East peace talks.

“We’re running out of time. If we do not succeed now, we may not get another chance,” Kerry said in a speech to the American Jewish Committee in which he urged American Jews to support peace efforts to revive stalled peace talks. “The status quo is simply not sustainable.”

“The absence of peace is perpetual conflict. ... We will find ourselves in a negative spiral of responses and counter-responses that could literally slam the door on a two-state solution,” he said, according to AFP news agency.

His warning came amid reports that he is planning to return to the Middle East region within days for his fifth trip to Israel since he launched his bid to kickstart the negotiations in early February.

“We can’t let the disappointments of the past hold the future prisoner. We can’t let the absence of peace become a self-fulfilling prophecy,” Kerry urged in one of his most passionate speeches to date on the elusive search for peace.

Urging the Jewish forum to reflect on what will happen if his peace efforts fail, Kerry said “the absence of peace becomes perpetual conflict.”

“We will find ourselves in a negative spiral of responses and counter-responses, that can literally slam the door on a two-state solution, having already agreed, I think, that there isn’t a one-state one,” Kerry said.

“And the insidious campaign to de-legitimize Israel will only gain steam,” he said.

When Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas sought upgraded U.N. observer status at the U.N. General Assembly last year, only nine countries voted against. Kerry warned next time even fewer nations might oppose such a move.

Over the past four months, the top U.S. diplomat has been engaged in intensive shuttle diplomacy aimed at finding a way back to some form of direct talks which have been in deep-freeze since late 2010.