JERUSALEM (JTA) — A final status peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinians remains the U.S. goal, Secretary of State John Kerry said.
“Our goal remains as it always has been — for the Israelis and Palestinians to reach a final status agreement — not an interim agreement, a final status agreement,” Kerry said Friday in Jerusalem after meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority Mahmoud Abbas. “And both parties remain committed to fulfilling their obligations to stay at the table and negotiate hard during the nine-month period that we set for that.”
The meeting Thursday evening between Kerry and Abbas was cut short due to a major snowstorm; officials were concerned that the Kerry motorcade would not be able to leave the area. Kerry met Friday with Netanyahu in Jerusalem in a meeting postponed a day because of the snowstorm.
Kerry told reporters in Jerusalem that the sides continue to discuss the “critical issues,” which he identified as borders, security, refugees, Jerusalem, mutual recognition, and an end to conflict and to all claims.
The secretary of state reiterated the commitment of the United States to Israel’s security.
“We are working on an approach that both guarantees Israel’s security and fully respects Palestinian sovereignty,” he said.
Kerry also said the third release of Palestinian prisoners, pledged by Israel to bring the Palestinians back to the negotiating table more than three months ago,would take place on Dec. 29 as scheduled despite his calls for a delay.
He wants to prevent another Israeli announcement of new settlement construction approvals that could disrupt or potentially halt the current peace process.