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PM Netanyahu meets with US Secretary of State Kerry in Rome

PM Netanyahu: We discussed not only American-Israeli security cooperation, but security cooperation in a larger regional context - how to advance the process with the Palestinians, as well as regional implications for stabilizing the Middle East.​

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and US Secretary of State John Kerry, in Rome, issued the following statements before their meeting:
US Secretary of State John Kerry:
"Good morning, everybody. I'm delighted to welcome the Prime Minister of Israel, my friend Bibi Netanyahu, to the American residence here in Rome, which he is very familiar with. We spent quite a few hours here in the garden and in this room and elsewhere talking.
We had a very long meeting last night in which we discussed many different issues, but we focused significantly on the challenge of beating back terrorism and beating back terrorism specifically with respect to Israel's challenge in the Sinai, in the Golan Heights, where ISIL is now visible, positioned in places, and also the challenge of violence stemming from extremism in Gaza and the West Bank.
We had a very productive conversation about that, and we talked at some length about ways in which we might be able to try to work and move things in a more positive direction. We also talked about the progress being made, the significant progress being made by the Prime Minister in his discussions with Turkey, and we obviously have been encouraging a movement towards the resolution of the differences between Turkey and Israel.
And finally, we did talk at some length about the economic challenge, and particularly some of the countries in the region which are witnessing a transformational kind of set of hurdles – Egypt particularly, with respect to its economic transformation, which has to come at the same time as it is fighting back against terrorism, and we discussed how we can work together with other countries in the region in order to deal with those issues.
And of course, finally we talked about Brexit – impossible not to – and how that might or might not affect all economies, and I think we came to the conclusion that, managed properly, with leadership and effort by all of the parties to calm the waters and move in a steady way, that we can get through this – also another transformation, transition, and do so hopefully minimizing any kind of collateral negative effect.
Most importantly, Israel is, as everybody knows and we reiterate again and again, a critical ally and friend of the United States, and Israel continues to be facing significant challenges. We talked about those, and the ways in which, hopefully, with good effort by all leaders, we can try to change the direction and find a positive way to affect the lives of everybody – Israelis, Palestinians, people in the neighboring countries – and move towards a more stable and peaceful future."
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu:
"Thank you, John, for dinner and breakfast, and for our conversations. I welcome the opportunity to have the, I would say, probing talks on the region, on the challenges and on the opportunities with my good friend John Kerry. There are serious talks by two committed allies, Israel and the United States.
We discussed everything that the Secretary spoke about – the challenges in the region from ISIL, east, west, south. We discussed not only American-Israeli security cooperation, but security cooperation in a larger regional context. We discussed how we can advance the process with the Palestinians, difficult though it may be. We discussed regional implications for stabilizing the Middle East, moving into a place where it will be less convulsive. And we discussed some bilateral issues between us. This was a far-ranging discussion that I think was meant to bring us both in a common direction for common purposes, and I find it very valuable, so thank you.
I updated Secretary Kerry about our agreement with Turkey, which we will show at noon. I think it's an important step here to normalize relations on one side. It has also immense implications for the Israeli economy, and I use that word advisedly – immense implications for the Israeli economy and I mean positive immense implications.
A lot of other things were discussed and will be discussed today, but I remember a meeting that I had with Secretary Kerry quite some time ago when we discussed it, and with Vice President Biden, whom I called yesterday, who met me a couple years ago in Davos. Rod is an oil expert, he's a gas expert, and he said, "This will create the foundations, part of the foundations, of the future of your economy." That has been uppermost in my mind, and I'll say more about that today at lunch.
US Secretary of State John Kerry: Because I wanted, I wanted the Prime Minister to say something about it and it shouldn't have come from me. But first of all, we welcome, the United States welcomes this step. It is something we have talked about for several years, as the Prime Minister has said. I'm proud to say that the Vice President's oil expert is the State Department's oil expert. Amos Hochstein did a great job on this too, and the Vice President's been pushing this all along. So, we are obviously pleased in the Administration. This is a step we wanted to see happen. I think when President Obama came to Israel, there was a famous phone call on the tarmac of the airport to Turkey, as we tried to move things forward. So this is coming full circle, and Mr. Prime Minister, I congratulate you. I know your team has been working long and hard at this. I think it's a positive step, one of, I hope, the beginning of others. Thank you. Appreciate it."
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US Looking to Bolster Israeli-Palestinian Talks at UN

Scott Stearns

VOA, At this week's meeting of the U.N. General Assembly, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry will be pushing efforts to back ongoing peace talks between Israelis and Palestinians. The talks are based on a two-state solution to the conflict.

Nothing has taken more of John Kerry's time as Secretary of State than Middle East peace. So these talks have been front and center in the run-up to his first U.N. General Assembly. "I am talking to both leaders directly and everybody, I think, understands the goal that we are working for. It is two states living side by side in peace and in security," he said.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says it is time. "We both know that this road is not an easy one, but we have embarked this effort with you in order to succeed to bring about a historic reconciliation between Israelis and Palestinians that ends the conflict once and for all," he said.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas says Palestinians are ready. "We have a period of nine months during which we hope to be able to reach to a peace agreement between us and the Israelis," he said.

Obstacles include the status of Jerusalem as an Israeli and Palestinian capital and the borders of a two-state solution.

The same issues that have largely blocked progress on a negotiated settlement since the Oslo Accords 20 years ago. So what has changed? Broader Israeli concerns about the future, says former U.S. ambassador Adam Ereli. "Whether or not you have the territory, whether or not you have provided for your security, the fact of the matter is it does not serve Israel's long-term interest to be an occupying power," he said.

Israel has issued new work permits for Palestinians from the West Bank as part of economic measures aimed at supporting the peace talks. But that is offset by new Israeli settlements, says Oxfam's Alun McDonald. "There are a lot of reasons to feel positive, but itis very hard to be optimistic when over the past few weeks there have been more announcements of settlements, there have been more demolitions of homes, and the occupation still continues," he said.

Settlements are a particularly difficult issue for Israel's coalition government, says Cato Institute analyst Doug Bandow. "The internal political dynamic is a very complicated one. It is hard to give those up. There is very little trust on both sides, so there is a lot of skepticism out there," he said.

Bandow says putting a peace deal to Israeli voters is especially perilous for a coalition government confronting divisive social issues of welfare benefits and military service for Orthodox Jews. "This really has to look good, it really has to look salable before Netanyahu is going to take ownership. He's got a lot else on his plate," he said.

Former Israeli negotiator Uri Savir says the momentum of the Oslo Accords is not entirely lost. "Peace processes take time. It is a difficult transition. But the foundations are still alive. And a two-state solution will still be achieved, I have no doubt," he said.

Kerry says time is the enemy of a peace process because it allows a vacuum to be filled by people who do not want things to happen.

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Kerry: Israeli Settlements Should Not Derail Peace Talks

VOA News, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry says new Israeli settlement activity should not derail peace talks with the Palestinians.



Kerry said during a visit to Bogota, Colombia, on Monday that "the United States of America views all of the settlements as illegitimate." But he added that the issue of settlements is best resolved by solving the problems of security and borders during talks.

Israel Sunday approved building almost 1,200 new homes in occupied areas claimed by the Palestinians for a future state. They include parts of East Jerusalem and the West Bank.

Palestinian officials say the move is an attempt to undermine the peace process. An Israeli government spokesman says the new homes will be in areas Israel will likely keep in any peace deal.

Israeli and Palestinian negotiators are set to resume peace talks Wednesday in Jerusalem. U.S. negotiator Martin Indyk will also attend.

On Monday, Israel published the names of 26 long-held Palestinian prisoners it plans to release ahead the talks.

Most of the Palestinians to be freed were jailed in the late 1980s and early 1990s for murder and attempted murder of Israelis and suspected Palestinian collaborators.

Israel agreed to free 104 inmates in stages. But their release depends on the progress of the U.S.-backed peace talks. Opponents of the prisoner release call it a reward for terrorism.

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