Kerry: Middle East peace plan will be ‘fair’

The top U.S. diplomat is revisiting the region to discuss a framework for a peace accord between Israelis and Palestinians

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U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said Sunday that any Middle East peace plan would be “fair and balanced,” as he held a fourth day of talks with Israeli and Palestinian leaders.

“I can guarantee all parties that President (Barack) Obama and I are committed to putting forward ideas that are fair and balanced, and to improving the security of all peoples,” Kerry told reporters in Jerusalem.

Kerry is to visit Saudi Arabia and Jordan on Sunday to discuss with ongoing peace talks between Israelis and Palestinians.

On Saturday, Kerry had said both sides were making progress towards a “framework agreement” to guide their talks on a formal peace deal but still have some way to go.

This framework would make up the general guidelines for an accord to be drafted later. The United States hopes the talks will lead to an agreement within nine months.

“I am confident that the talks we have had in the last two days have already fleshed out and even resolved certain kinds of issues and presented new opportunities for others,” he said after meeting Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.

“We are not there yet, but we are making progress,” Kerry told reporters in Ramallah, seat of Abbas’ government.

But both sides have expressed doubts about Kerry’s framework, which aims to address all of the conflict’s core issues, including borders, security, the future of Palestinian refugees and the fate of Jerusalem.

On Sunday, Israel said it rejects any U.S.-proposed security concessions for the Jordan Valley.

"Security must remain in our hands. Anyone who proposes a solution in the Jordan Valley by deploying an international force, Palestinian police or technological means ... does not understand the Middle East," Intelligence Minister Yuval Steinitz told Israeli public radio.

On Saturday, Steinitz, a Netanyahu confidant, questioned Abbas’s intentions.

“We have great doubt about Abu Mazen’s (Abbas) willingness to reach an agreement,” he told a town hall meeting. “We see the strong incitement and anti-Semitism of the Palestinian Authority led by (Abbas) as a main obstacle on the road to an agreement.”

Chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat urged Israel to stop building Jewish settlements on occupied land the Palestinians want for a state and to halt house demolitions, which rights groups view as a form of collective punishment.

But Erekat, standing beside Kerry in Ramallah, also made a case for peace directly to the Palestinians and he suggested that Kerry could return to the region later this month.

“No one benefits more from the success of Secretary Kerry’s efforts than Palestinians and no one stands to lose more (from) failure than Palestinians,” he said.

(With Reuters)

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