Kerry returns to Middle East


Wed, Jul 17, 2013 - Page 7

US Secretary of State John Kerry headed to Jordan on Monday on his sixth trip to the region as he tries to push Israelis and Palestinians back to peace talks.

In Amman, Kerry will meet a delegation from the Arab League and Jordanian leaders, a top US official said.

Since he took office on Feb. 1, the US top diplomat has made a search for a long-elusive Middle East peace deal one of the top priorities of his tenure.

However, US officials were quick to downplay hopes that his return to the region signaled that an announcement was pending on a resumption of the talks, which have stalled since September 2010. They even could not immediately confirm whether he would meet with top Palestinian or Israeli leaders.

A Palestinian official said Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas will meet Kerry in Jordan.

“We are waiting to see what new ideas Kerry will bring with him after his last tour of the region,” the official said on condition of anonymity.

However, US Department of State spokeswoman Jen Psaki said the full details of the trip were not yet finalized. She said that Kerry would meet today with Jordanian leaders, including King Abdullah, as well as Arab League officials to “provide an update on Middle East peace.”

They would also discuss the political upheaval in Egypt and the conflict in Syria, and it was expected that Egypt, a key member of the Arab League, would send someone to the talks in Amman.

Psaki downplayed expectations of any announcement of a resumption of talks, but she stressed: “The secretary would not be going back to the region if he did not feel there was an opportunity to keep making steps forward.”

Meanwhile, Yuval Diksin, the former head of Israel’s internal security service Shin Bet, warned in an editorial in the Jerusalem Post on Monday that if the window for a two-state solution closes, the growing Israeli Arab population and sheer demographics made a peace deal the only option.

Israel would have no choice but to grant full voting rights to Palestinians or risk turning into an “ostracized apartheid state,” he wrote.

“In such a scenario, there is no need to hold further discussions about the future of the Jewish and democratic vision as put forth by our founding fathers... It will melt away and disappear,” he wrote.