U.S. official: Syria, Egypt turmoil improves chances of success in peace talks


Fear of being engulfed by the chaos motivates Israelis and Palestinians to reach peace agreement, says senior U.S. state department official.

The turmoil in both Syria and Egypt is nudging Israelis and Palestinians toward peace, a United States official said on Friday, as Secretary of State John Kerry flew to Europe for talks on Middle East issues.

Kerry’s three-day trip was originally intended to brief European and Arab diplomats on the Israeli-Palestinian peace talks, but that objective is likely to be overshadowed by the ongoing crisis in Syria. The secretary of state is expected to lobby for support for President Barack Obama’s proposed military strike against Syria while in Europe.

On Sunday, Kerry is scheduled to meet with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in London.

The senior U.S. State Department official said Syria’s civil war and the upheaval in Egypt following the military’s ouster of Islamist President Mohamed Morsi have given Israelis and Palestinians an incentive to end their conflict.

“Both sides have made clear to us and to each other that they do not want the turmoil to engulf them and that therefore it motivates them to try to resolve their conflict to prevent that from happening,” the official told reporters travelling with Kerry.

Kerry will meet European Union foreign ministers in the Lithuanian capital Vilnius on Saturday and with members of an Arab League committee formed to track Israeli-Palestinian peace talks on Sunday. His meeting in London with Abbas was expected to last for several hours, the official said.

He is due to return to Washington on Monday and is expected to plunge back into the U.S. debate over Syria. Congress is expected to vote on the proposed military strike against Syria next week.

“I don’t expect huge, huge change on the day after (any U.S. strike),” a second senior State Department official told reporters with Kerry. “I think the war of attrition will grind on … without the use of chemical weapons,” he said. “It is a war of attrition that the regime slowly, gradually is losing.”

The core issues that need to be settled in the more than six-decade-old Israeli-Palestinian dispute include borders, the fate of Palestinian refugees, the future of Jewish settlements in the West Bank and the status of Jerusalem.



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