Kerry unavailable on date of Paris Middle East peace talks
WASHINGTON DC: US Secretary of State John Kerry is unavailable the day a Paris meeting to relaunch negotiations over the Israeli-Palestinian peace process is set to occur, the State Department said Monday.
However the United States and France are looking into a possible alternative date for the ministerial discussions, which fall on the US Memorial Day holiday honoring members of the armed forces who died in combat.
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“We’ve made it clear that the May 30 date originally proposed by the French would not work for the secretary and for his schedule,” State Department spokesman John Kirby said.
“We’re in discussions right now with the French about any possible alternative date that might better work for the secretary,” he added.
Kerry’s agenda in May is already “jammed,” Kirby said. The secretary of state is currently in Europe before heading to Asia until May 27, and is expected in China again in early June.
French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault was in Jerusalem and Ramallah on Sunday to present the French peace initiative to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas.
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He received support from the Palestinians but objections from Israel, with Netanyahu questioning French “impartiality” after Paris voted in favor of making Palestine a UNESCO member five years ago.
Ayrault said he is ready to shift the May 30 date several days to enable Kerry to attend.
However, Kirby said no decision had been reached “one way or another.”
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A staunch ally of Israel, Washington has traditionally brokered direct negotiations between the Israelis and Palestinians and played down multilateral initiatives, especially within the United Nations.
The United States has regularly called for a “two-state solution” to the Middle East crisis since the last US-brokered talks collapsed in April 2014.