WASHINGTON: U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry met for over two hours Wednesday with Palestinian negotiators for “constructive” talks on future relations with Israel, a U.S. official said.
The talks come just days after Israel announced its biggest grab of Palestinian land since the 1980s, and as a new showdown looms at the U.N. with the increasingly frustrated Palestinians planning to push a resolution setting a three-year deadline to end the Israeli occupation.
It was Kerry’s first face-to-face talks with Palestinian negotiators since Washington found itself sidelined from the Gaza cease-fire talks in July, when the top U.S. diplomat failed to broker a truce in the war between Israel and Palestinian militants in the Gaza Strip.
“Kerry met with Saeb Erekat and Majid Faraj for about two hours this afternoon,” State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said.
“It was a constructive conversation that covered a range of issues, including Gaza, Israeli-Palestinian relations, and recent developments in the region,” she said, adding they had agreed to talk again in coming weeks.
Kerry had also spoken Tuesday by phone with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, when he expressed his concerns about new Israeli plans to confiscate some 400 hectares of land in the occupied West Bank for settlement building.
The U.S. has called on Israel to reverse the decision.
Kerry’s high-profile bid to hammer out a full peace treaty between Israel and the Palestinian Authority collapsed spectacularly amid bitter recriminations in April, despite more than a year of shuttle diplomacy.
State Department officials told AFP the Palestinians had requested Wednesday’s meeting “to brief the secretary on current Palestinian plans on the way forward and next steps in Gaza.”
More than 2,100 Palestinians were killed in Israel’s bombardment of the Gaza Strip, most of them civilians, which ended last week with an open-ended cease-fire between Israel and Palestinian militant groups, brokered by Egypt.
The two sides are supposed to meet soon in Cairo for negotiations on a long-term truce, but no date has been announced yet for the talks.
The Palestinians now intend to seek a U.N. Security Council resolution setting a three-year deadline for ending the Israeli occupation of the Palestinian territories.
But the resolution will likely be voted down by a veto from the U.S. which has long opposed unilateral moves by the Palestinians to seek statehood.