News24

Kerry finalising MidEast peace talks team

2013-07-23 09:07

Washington - Secretary of State John Kerry is finalising his team to help shepherd Middle East peace talks and take on the heavy lifting on a day to day basis, a US official said on Monday.

State Department spokesperson Jen Psaki would neither confirm nor deny reports that a former US ambassador to Israel, Martin Indyk, has been chosen to head up the American negotiating team.

In Amman on Friday - at the end of his sixth trip to the region - Kerry announced that Israeli and Palestinian leaders have agreed in principle to return to talks that have been frozen for three years.

Israeli chief negotiator Tzipi Livni and her Palestinian counterpart Saeb Erakat are due to travel to Washington in the coming days to start the talks.

"This is the first time in years the official negotiators for both sides have publicly agreed to meet at this level," Psaki told reporters.

But she could not give a precise date for the resumption of talks, saying US officials had been "in touch with both parties over the course of the last couple of days, but I don't have an update on the logistics of the date yet".

Challenging process


"Right now we are pursuing the way forward. There has been a great deal of work, compromise and sacrifice leading to this point," Psaki said.

But she stressed she was going to respect Kerry's commitment to keep the details of the negotiations secret in order to give them the best chance of succeeding.

The top US diplomat was now "focused on putting together the right combination of players to work with the parties", she said, adding no decision on a negotiator or envoy had been made.

Psaki said the talks are "going to be a challenging process. [Kerry] can't carry it all on his own shoulders day in and day out. And that's why he's looking to put together a senior team."

The State Department spokesperson also stressed that the Israelis and Palestinians "have made clear they want to have substantive discussions as early as possible".

It is likely, however, that the agenda and process will be discussed first before the two sides try to get down to the thorny details on which they remain deeply divided.

'Cautious optimism'


Former US president Jimmy Carter, who helped negotiate the 1979 peace deal between Israel and Egypt in what became known as the Camp David accords, said he was "more hopeful than I was a month ago, or five years ago", about progress.

"It seems to us that this is a certainly propitious time, because it's been almost a five year absence of any real effort to bring the two parties together," he said, addressing a conference at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

"No one knows what's going to happen, they might meet the first time and adjourn. But I think there's been a pressure from the Palestinian people and from the Israeli people to have a resolution on this issue."

White House spokesperson Jay Carney meanwhile said the US administration felt "very cautious optimism" about the upcoming talks, stressing that the only way "to resolve these issues is if the two parties sit down in direct face-to-face negotiations".

Indyk, currently the head of foreign policy at the Brookings Institution, is a veteran of Middle East diplomacy and was named by several US media outlets as Kerry's choice to head the American team.

Indyk was assistant secretary of state for Near Eastern affairs under then president Bill Clinton and served as ambassador to Israel from 1995 to 1997.

He then again served as ambassador to Israel from 2000 to 2001. Indyk was born in London, but emigrated to Australia as a child. He became a US citizen in 1993.

"Obviously he's a very well-respected professional with a great deal of experience and background," Psaki said when asked about Indyk's qualifications.

"But I don't have any other updates on the personnel process," she added.

Comments
  • Ernest Dicker - 2013-07-23 10:30

    Kerry should stop wasting time and money...Israel belongs to the Jews!

      Jason Jaded - 2013-07-23 16:53

      Really? Last time i checked, Israel was a democracy. And in a democracy the State belongs to its citizens, regardless of race, colour or religious affiliation. Of the people who gave you so many thumbs up (37 at the last count), I would ask them this simple question: Is Israel a.) a Jewish State? Or is it b.) a State for the Jewish people? The answer to this question is key to the future of Israel and Occupied Palestine, as the Nationalist and Zionist mentality that you and others seem to hold in such high esteem, that Israel is not merely a State for the Jewish people, but exclusively a Jewish State, has nothing but pain and suffering to offer the people of Israel and the region at large. The demographic shift occurring in Israel, means that within ten years the non-Jewish population will outstrip the Jewish population by enough to take secular control of the Knesset, leaving the current regime with the exact same question above. Enforcing a Jewish State would make the State of Israel no better than its old allies in Apartheid South Africa, its most fierce detractors in Iran, and most ironically, the Jewish people's worst nightmare, Nazi Germany. Neither of which we would like to see. Regardless, Israel will soon enough cease to be a Jewish State, but it can still remain a State for the Jewish people. The Ultra-Nationalist Knesset, however, are gambling big and both options are now at risk. Best of luck to them negotiating then...

      Cameron Renovatio Hart - 2013-07-24 13:50

      @Jason, yea not to mention the 50 or so Islamic countries who with their Apartheid laws of forcing every non muslim to live according to Sharia law by some degree. As opposed to Israels religious freedom. But then again i dont want to be called Islamophobic for pointed out the 50 or so examples, as opposed to pointing out the only Jewish state in the world which hippy activists and radicals seem to be pissed off about that it exists.

      Jason Jaded - 2013-07-24 16:40

      @ Cameron, yet that is EXACTLY my point! You obviously missed every second word in my post. As I pointed out in my second-to-last paragraph... Nationalist and Zionist Israeli's desire to pursue a theocratic state rather than a secular state with no theocratic prejudices or preferences, makes them no better than the Iranian nationalists or ANY state that declares itself to be of any singular religion, rather than a state of and for the people. Had @Ernest said "So-and-so should stop wasting time and money... Apartheid South Africa belongs to the Christian!" or "So-and-so should stop wasting time and money... Egypt belongs to the Muslims!", I would have responded the exact same way. It's a stupid statement and one exposes the whole issue of indoctrinated entitlement at a State level through religious affiliation and ultra-nationalist sentiment. You, on the other hand, not only appear to agree with this sentiment, but in fact go a step further with the even more fascist mentality of: "No fair! All these other crazy theocratic extremist rogue states are allowed to kill thousands and oppress millions of people, so why can't the Jews?" REALLY? That's your argument? That's like saying, "Well, Nazi Germany killed and oppressed millions, Apartheid South Africa killed and oppressed its ethnic majority, Rwanda killed and maimed its people, Iran are oppressing its secular population through Sharia law... so it MUST be okay to do the same." You sir, are a genius!

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