Visiting U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said Thursday that he believed "some progress" was being made in the Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations, telling reporters following talks with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that "we have always known that this is a difficult, complicated road."
Kerry and Netanyahu gave brief statements to the press after their meeting at the Prime Minister's Office, which focused on the Iranian nuclear issue and Israeli-Palestinian peace talks.
General John Allen, the U.S. envoy to the peace process, presented Netanyahu during the meeting with what Kerry called "thoughts" regarding possible security arrangements in the West Bank in a final status agreement between Israelis and Palestinians.
In his remarks to the press, Kerry reiterated the U.S. "deep commitment" to Israel's security, saying: "We want an agreement that recognizes Israel as country that can defend itself by itself." The secretary of state will meet Netanyahu again for dinner in Jerusalem and also Friday morning to continue the discussion on the U.S. security plan.
Netanyahu told reporters that Israel was ready for historic peace with the Palestinians based on two states for two people, adding that "in any agreement with the Palestinians, Israel must have the ability to defend itself by itself and with our own forces, adding: "We continue to honor all commitment reached in prior negotiations".
Netanyahu also criticized the Palestinian leadership's handling of the peace talks and said the two sides needed to hold real negotiations and "avoid finger pointing and artificial crises".
On Iran, Netanyahu and Kerry tried to present a more united line while referring to the goal of the final agreement on Iran's nuclear program. "In a final deal, it's crucial to bring about the terminations of Iran's military nuclear capability," Netanyahu said.
Kerry gave a very similar statement. "The U.S. will do everything to make sure that Iran's nuclear program of weaponization possibilities is terminated," he said. "A peaceful program should not be that hard to prove."
Kerry reiterated that the U.S. was "deeply committed" to Israel's security. He added that he understood the security challenges facing Israel, and that this issue topped the U.S. agenda in talks on Iran.
Kerry vowed that the U.S. would be vigilant to ensure that the sanctions regime over its contentious nuclear program remains in place and would step up its enforcement.
"The fundamental sanctions regime of oil and banking remains absolutely in place," said Kerry. "It is not changed. And we will be stepping up our effort of enforcement through the Treasury Department and through the appropriate agencies of the United States."
Kerry said Washington would confer closely with its Israeli ally about crafting a permanent Iran agreement after the six-month confidence-building period laid out by the Geneva deal under which Iran would limit sensitive aspects of its nuclear program.
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