Kerry: U.S. to evaluate next steps in peace process

WASHINGTON (JTA) — U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said the United States planned to evaluate its approach to Israeli-Palestinian peacemaking in light of recent setbacks, which he blamed on both sides.

In response to a question while visiting Morocco, Kerry said that he would return to Washington to confer with President Obama before deciding on the next steps. He said it was “reality-check time.”

“There are limits to the amount of time and effort that the United States can spend if the parties themselves are unwilling to take constructive steps in order to be able to move forward,” Kerry said. He said that “both sides have taken steps that are not helpful, and that’s evident to everybody.”

On Tuesday, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas applied to join 15 international conventions in defiance of his commitment last year not to seek such recognition until an agreement is in place.

Israeli Finance Minister Yair Lapid wrote on Facebook that the applications appeared to be “a deliberate provocation aimed at blowing up the talks.”

Abbas went ahead with the applications after Israel on March 29 failed to release the final batch of 26 Palestinian prisoners out of 104 it said it would release in a framework agreement for jump-starting talks.

Kerry noted that the United States was grappling with crises and engagement in other arenas, including Russia’s incursion into Ukraine, the Syrian civil war and the nuclear talks with Iran.

“This is a global concern, but President Obama has made it clear and I’ve made it clear this is not open-ended,” he said. “We have a huge agenda. And we’re going to evaluate precisely what is possible and what is not possible.”

He said the United States was “not going to sit there indefinitely. It is not an open-ended effort.”

On Friday, Kerry phoned Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in a bid to save the peace talks amid breakdowns that prevented progress.

Palestinian negotiators are currently demanding that Netanyahu give a written commitment to recognize east Jerusalem as the Palestinian capital and lift the naval blockade from Gaza as a condition to going ahead with peace talks, Army Radio on Friday reported. They are also demanding the release of 1,200 prisoners, including Fatah leader Marwan Barghouti, the report said.

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