Kerry, meeting Livni, sounds optimistic note on peace

WASHINGTON (JTA) – U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry met with top Israeli peace negotiators and suggested they were closer to reviving talks with the Palestinians.

“This is a continuation of a number of conversations that we’ve been having,” Kerry said Wednesday at the residence of the U.S. ambassador to Rome, where he was meeting with Tzipi Livni, the Israeli justice minister and the lead Cabinet-level peace negotiator, and Yitzhak Molcho, the top peace process adviser to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. “And I think it’s fair to say that we are working through a threshold of questions, that we’re doing it with a seriousness and purpose that I think Minister Livni would agree with me has not been present in a while.”

Livni in her remarks agreed with Kerry that the Arab League’s revival of its 2002 peace plan was a positive recent step.

She focused particularly on last week’s statement by the Qatari prime minister, Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim bin Jabr Al Thani, in which Hamad added land swaps to the 2002 proposal calling for an exchange of peace for an Israeli withdrawal to 1967 lines. Hamad made the statement after a meeting between Kerry and Arab League ministers.

“I do believe that having the meeting with the Arab League and having the statement come from Hamad bin Jassim after the meeting was very good news because there’s the need for the support of the Arab states,” she said.

Livni called on Arab nations to back Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas in any revived peace bid.

Talks in 2000 fell apart because Yasser Arafat, the late Palestinian president, found that Arab leaders balked at openly supporting him in making far-reaching concessions to Israel.

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