John Kerry to present security plan in Mideast visit
Jerusalem: Secretary of State John Kerry will present the outlines of a West Bank security plan in meetings with Israeli and Palestinian leaders this week, stepping up American involvement in hopes of reviving faltering Mideast peace efforts, US officials said on Wednesday.
The proposal will mark the first time that Kerry, who was to arrive in Israel late today, has directly intervened in the talks since they began in late July. By all accounts, the negotiations have made no progress, despite an April target date for reaching a deal.
Kerry has lots riding on the outcome of the negotiations. The sides agreed to resume talks, their first substantive dialogue in five years, under heavy pressure by Kerry, and he has repeatedly shuttled to the region and held lengthy phone conversations with Israeli and Palestinian leaders in hopes of pushing them forward.
Negotiators have said discussions touched on all key issues in the long-festering conflict, primarily Israeli security concerns and possible border arrangements between Israel and a future Palestine. But they say the talks have amounted to little more than restating positions.
The Palestinians seek all of the West Bank, east Jerusalem and Gaza Strip, areas captured by Israel in 1967, for an independent state.
They say that Israel`s pre-1967 boundaries should be the basis for a future border, allowing for slight modifications through negotiated land swaps.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu rejects a return to the 1967 lines, and has signaled he wants to retain large parts of the West Bank. Netanyahu also opposes any shared control over east Jerusalem, the Palestinians hoped-for capital. Israel withdrew from Gaza in 2005.
The US diplomatic officials said Kerry and his security adviser, retired Gen John Allen, have been working on security issues in hopes of breaking the deadlock. They believe the absence of any concrete plans so far is a main reason for the lack of progress. The American officials spoke on condition of anonymity because Kerry has not yet presented his proposals.
The Haaretz daily said that Allen would present his ideas at a meeting with Netanyahu tomorrow. After that meeting, Kerry is scheduled to head to the West Bank for talks with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. It said the American thinking is that if Israeli security concerns can be met, other issues, such as borders, will then fall into place.
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