Kerry travelling to Rome Sunday to meet Israeli PM

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry testifies before a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington December 9, 2014. (Reuters)

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry will head to Rome on Sunday for a meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as Palestinians push for swift U.N. action urging an end to the Israeli occupation.

Kerry and Netanyahu "will discuss a number of issues, including recent developments in Israel, the West Bank, and Jerusalem and the region," State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said Wednesday.

A top focus of the talks will be the Palestinian call for a United Nations resolution by the end of the year that would set a timetable for Israel's withdrawal from occupied Palestinian territory.

The push comes against a backdrop of calls from several European parliaments pressing their governments to recognize full Palestinian statehood, as prospects look bleak for a resumption of peace talks with Israel.

Chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erakat said Tuesday: "We are hoping to achieve this resolution before the end of the month, before Christmas as a matter of fact."

Kerry's dogged nine-month pursuit of a peace deal between Israel and the Palestinians collapsed in early April amid bitter recriminations on both sides.

Speaking on Sunday to a Washington forum also addressed by the Israeli leader, Kerry vowed: "I won't give up."

But he acknowledged that, after Netanyahu called snap elections in March, it was unlikely any fresh peace negotiations could "resume tomorrow."

"There is an election in the next few months now in Israel, and the Israeli people will have important choices to make for their future," Kerry told the Saban Forum, organized by the Brookings Institution.

"And we look forward to working closely with the new government, whatever its composition, whenever it is formed," he said, vowing the US "will absolutely not involve ourselves in any way in the middle of the choice of the people of Israel."

But Kerry again insisted that the current status quo in Israeli-Palestinian relations was unsustainable, adding "ongoing unrest had brought new traumas to everybody."

"Common sense and strategic analysis tells us definitively: this cannot go on," Kerry pleaded.

News of his trip to Rome came amid continuing tensions in the region and as a senior Palestinian official died Wednesday after being struck in a confrontation with Israeli forces during a protest march in the West Bank.

Psaki said the United States was "deeply concerned" by the death of Ziad Abu Ein and called for the Israeli investigation into the incident to be "swift, fair and transparent."

Netanyahu told the Saban forum it was the Palestinians fault that the peace talks had collapsed.

The "talks ended because the Palestinians wanted them to end," the Israeli leader insisted.

The Palestinian leadership "is simply not prepared... to confront violence and fanaticism within Palestinian society," said Netanyahu, who has also sacked his justice minister Tzipi Livni who was the chief Israeli negotiator in the talks.

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Last Update: Wednesday, 20 May 2020 KSA 09:45 - GMT 06:45
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