Ma'an News Agency
November 11, 2010 - 12:00am
http://www.maannews.net/eng/ViewDetails.aspx?ID=332901


Senior Democratic US Senator John Kerry, fresh from meetings with Israeli and Palestinian leaders, said Wednesday that Israel could decide to extend a freeze on settlement construction.

Kerry, who chairs the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee, told reporters on a conference call from Israel that he had urged both sides to keep their "eye on the prize" and not let Middle East peace slip through their grasp.

"It is possible that there will be an extension of the moratorium," he said, referring to a freeze Israel set on West Bank construction for a 10-month span that ended in late September. "I do not believe the door is shut."

Kerry met in Israel with President Shimon Peres as well as former foreign minister and opposition leader Tzipi Livni, but not Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and aides were quick to point out he was not making a prediction.

Peace talks between the two sides had been teetering on the brink of collapse when the moratorium ran out. US-led efforts to prod Israel into reinstating the freeze have thus far led nowhere.

Kerry said he had prodded President Mahmoud Abbas -- who has called for the UN Security Council to urgently debate Israeli settlement building -- and Prime Minister Salam Fayyad to return to the peace talks.

"We had a long discussion about how to get back to the talks I did encourage them," he said. "You've got to keep your eye on the prize and figure out how we get to the talks that really matter."

"I completely understand the frustration of the Palestinian people," said Kerry, who warned against pulling from the negotiations with US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton working "in very good faith" to break the impasse.




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