After four days of shuttle diplomacy in the Middle East, US Secretary of State John Kerry said on Friday evening a deal had been reached to resume direct peace talks between Israelis and Palestinians.
Kerry arrived in Jordan’s capital Amman on Tuesday for talks with Palestinian leader Mahmud Abbas and Arab leaders. On Friday, Kerry traveled to the West Bank city of Ramallah to meet with Abbas, the third time this week. Before the visit to Ramallah, the US top diplomat held a surprise second meeting with chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat.
Although the US secretary of state has not met with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in person during his Middle East tour, the two have discussed the matter by phone.
“I am pleased to announce that we have reached an agreement that establishes the basis for resuming direct final-status negotiations between the Palestinians and the Israelis,” Kerry told reporters after returning back to Jordan from Ramallah.
If everything goes as expected, Erekat, along with Israel’s Justice Minister Tzipi Livni, who in charge of the negotiations, and Israeli prime minister’s emissary Yitzhak Molcho, will join Kerry in Washington “within the next week or so,” the US top diplomat said.
The secretary of state said the agreement lays basis for the resumption of direct talks between Israelis and Palestinians, but declined to give any details on what had been agreed so far.
“The agreement is still in the process of being formalized,” he said.
Israeli and Palestinian leaders confirmed Kerry’s announcement.
Justice Minister Tzipi Livni wrote on her Facebook page that “four years of diplomatic impasse are about to end,” Israel’s Ynet news website reported.
“I’m fully convinced that this is the right thing for our future, our security, our economy and for Israel’s values,” the website quoted her as saying. “In the negotiation chamber we’ll maintain Israel’s national and security interests as a Jewish and democratic state.”
Abbas’s spokesperson, Nabil abu-Rudeina, said there are certain details the two sides must still solve. If everything goes well, US State Secretary John Kerry will invite Erekat and an Israeli envoy for initial talks in Washington in the coming days, Ynet reported.
The Palestinian news agency Maan reported Livni and Erekat will hold an urgent meeting on Friday night. Israeli officials, however, have denied the report.
Hamas spokesperson Sami Abu Zuhri said his organization rejects the negotiations, because “Abbas has no legitimacy to negotiate in the name of the Palestinian people on the core issues.”
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said via his spokesperson that he was encouraged by “this positive development” and called on both sides to show leadership, courage, and responsibility.
“The Secretary-General welcomes the announcement… that the basis has been established to resume talks between Israelis and Palestinians,” his spokesperson said in a statement.