Kerry postpones trip to Israel ahead of Geneva Iran talks


(JTA) — U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry postponed a trip to Israel scheduled for this week.

Kerry hopes to visit Israel “in the coming weeks,” U.S. State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki told reporters on Monday afternoon.

Kerry had indicated earlier in the day during a joint news conference in Washington with Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu that he would not make it to Israel as planned.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had announced Sunday at a regular Cabinet meeting that Kerry would arrive in Israel at the end of the week, on Nov. 22, to discuss the proposed nuclear agreement between Iran and the world powers, as well as stalled Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations.

Kerry’s decision to postpone his trip means that he will not meet with Netanyahu until after the next round of talks in Geneva regarding Iran’s nuclear program, which has been a source of contention between Netanyahu and the Obama administration.

Psaki told reporters that the relationship between Israel and the United States remains strong.

“Israel and the United States have a strong, decades-long partnership. We work together on a range of issues,” she said. “It’s important to note that the reason we are so – one of the reasons we’re so committed to pursuing the diplomatic path [with Iran] is because we are committed to Israel’s security, and that’s the message that we’re conveying.”

Psaki said the United States remains “committed to briefing the Israelis and staying in close contact about this [negotiations on Iran’s nuclear program] and many other issues that we work together on.”

In his announcement Sunday, Netanyahu called Kerry “an old friend” who “is also a friend of Israel.”

“I would like to make it clear that there can be disagreements even among the best of friends, certainly on issues related to our future and our fate,” Netanyahu told the Cabinet.

On the issue of foundering Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations, Psaki said Monday in answer to a reporter’s question that an indication of progress in the talks is “the fact that both sides have reaffirmed their commitment to the nine-month timeline” in direct conversations with Kerry.

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