John Kerry still hopeful on Mideast peace talks
Bogota: US Secretary of State John Kerry said the recent flap over Israeli settlement announcements likely won`t derail Mideast peace talks, which are scheduled to resume this week.
Kerry said at a news conference yesterday in Bogota that he has talked about the announcements with the top Israeli negotiator. He is also trying to reach Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who is recovering from hernia surgery.
A State Department spokeswoman in Washington, Marie Harf, said that the US had expressed its "serious concerns" about the announcement Sunday that Israel had approved building nearly 1,200 more settlement homes Sunday all the third in a week.
It fuelled Palestinian fears of a new Israeli construction spurt under the cover of US-sponsored negotiations.
Top US negotiator Martin Indyk has arrived in the region for talks that begin on Wednesday. Palestinian officials already have complained about the settlement announcement, even as Israel released more than 100 Palestinian convicts as part of the deal to resume peace talks.
Kerry said the US government views the settlements as illegitimate. He added that criticism on the Palestinian side shows the need to get negotiations going quickly.
"I think that what this underscores, actually, is the importance of getting to the table and getting to the table quickly and resolving the questions with respect to settlements, which are best resolved by solving the problems of security and borders," Kerry said.
"Once you have security and borders solved, you have resolved the question of settlements."
Kerry urged both parties not to react adversely or to provoke either side, but to move forward quietly, carefully and deliberately to negotiate the major issues.
"With the negotiation of major issues, these kind of hot point issues ... Are eliminated as the kind of flash points that they may be viewed today," he said.
Kerry, on his first trip to Colombia as secretary of state, met yesterday with Colombian officials negotiating with the nation`s largest guerrilla Army to find peace in the South American country for the first time since 1964.
Kerry is visiting Colombia and Brazil this week in an attempt to build warmer relations with two US allies in Latin America. But the visits may be hindered by resentment after reports about an American spy program that widely targeted data in emails and telephone calls across the region.
Disclosures by National Security Agency leaker Edward Snowden could chill talks on several fronts. Those include trade, energy, counter narcotics, and discussions about the Oct. 23 state dinner that President Barrack ABM is hosting for Brazil`s president, Dilemma Rousseau.
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