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U.S. to review role in peace talks after setback

As Israel considers imposing new sanctions against the Palestinians, the U.S. is evaluating whether to continue working as a mediator

Published: Updated:

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said the United States was evaluating whether to continue its role in Middle East peace talks after Israel is considering imposing sanctions against the Palestinians, who have infuriated Israelis by trying to win wider international recognition.

Speaking during a visit to Morocco, Kerry said it was “reality check time” and there was a limit to the time the United States could spend on the peace process if the parties themselves were unwilling to take constructive measures, Reuters reported.

“This is not an open-ended effort, it never has been. It is reality check time and we intend to evaluate precisely what the next steps will be,” Reuters quoted Kerry as saying.

On Friday, Israeli media reported that Tel Aviv is considering imposing sanctions on the Palestinians in response to President Mahmoud Abbas’s continuous drive to make Palestinian territories a fully recognized state by the United Nations and gain more international acceptance.

“Israel began imposing a number of sanctions on the Palestinian Authority Thursday in response to a formal request by PA President Mahmoud Abbas to join 15 international conventions,” newspaper Haaretz reported Friday, citing a senior Israeli official.

Israel said the Palestinians violated what was agreed in the peace talks last July when they applied to 15 international treaties on Tuesday.

The Palestinians described their move as an attempt to gain wider international recognition and as countering Israel’s failure to release the fourth and the final batch of Palestinian prisoners, which is key to reach a final status agreement between the two.

According to the official, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon had instructed Maj. Gen. Yoav Mordechai, coordinator of government activities in the territories, on Wednesday to prepare a list of possible punitive measures against the Palestinians in the West Bank.

One of the sanctions measures that is currently accepted is not to allow a Palestinian wireless provider Wataniya, already operating in the West Bank, to bring equipment to the Gaza Strip for its planned project.

The Jerusalem Post newspaper on Friday reported Radio Kol Yisrael as saying that “Israel is reviewing imposing more sanctions.”

Kerry’s pleas

A Palestinian official said Friday that Abbas rejected Kerry’s appeals to halt applications to join international treaties to salvage peace talks with Israel.

In a late Thursday telephone conversation with Kerry, “Abbas stated he will not go back on the decision to sign up to international agreements,” the official told AFP on condition of anonymity.

Kerry warned Abbas that “Israel was threatening a strong response to Palestinian actions,” the official said.

But Abbas retorted: “Israel’s threats scare no one. They can do what they like,” the official added.

Israel’s chief negotiator, Justice Minister Tzipi Livni, told her counterpart on Thursday that a planned release of veteran Arab prisoners, which had been scheduled for last weekend, would now be called off.