U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said Thursday that he will make public the "progress" made during the nine months of peace talks between Israel and the Palestinian Authority. At the same time, Kerry, echoing the recent statement by President Barack Obama, said that in view of the breakdown in the negotiations, the time had come to for a "pause" in the talks.
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At a news conference in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, Kerry referred to the discussions he conducted in recent months with Israeli and Palestinian negotiators toward a so-called framework agreement on the core issues they would be negotiating: borders, Jerusalem, refugees, security, water and settlements. The agreement was never published because the two sides remained too far apart on the issues.
However, Kerry said: "What has not been laid out publicly and what I will do at some appropriate moment of time is make clear to everybody the progress that was made. These eight months, eight months plus were not without significant progress in certain areas. And I don’t think anybody wants to lose that progress."
Kerry said that due to the suspension of the peace talks and the disputes that preceded it, the April 29 time limit for the nine-month negotiations had become irrelevant.
He added that last week's reconciliation agreement between Fatah and Hamas, which led Israel to suspend the talks, came as a surprise to him because the Palestinians had not kept him apprised of the contacts between the previously rival movements.
Laying out Washington's immediate plans for the peace process, Kerry said: "We believe the best thing to do right now is pause, take a hard look at these things, and find out what is possible and what is not possible in the days ahead. As I have consistently said, I think peace is to the benefit of both parties – benefit of Israel, and benefit of the Palestinians."
He said each side had told him it did not want to see the talks end outright. "There may be quiet ways within which to begin to work on next steps," he added.
Also on Thursday, Ron Dermer, Israel's ambassador in Washington, issued a statement distancing the government from an article by Deputy Defense Minister Danny Danon in the U.S. website Politico. In the article Danon condemned Kerry's "apartheid speech," saying the secretary of state had threatened Israel and was not a fair mediator for the peace talks.
Dermer, evidently acting on instructions from Netanyahu, issued a press release in which he lauded Kerry, rejected the claim that he was trying to threaten Israel, and emphasized that Danon's words did not represent the government.
In Washington, Republican Sens. Marco Rubio of Florida and Mark Kirk of Illinois urged Kerry to state publicly that all U.S. assistance will be cut off to the Palestinian government if Hamas doesn't acknowledge Israel's right to exist and honor all previous Israeli-Palestinian agreements — as stipulated in U.S. law. Hamas must also dismantle its terrorist infrastructure and halt anti-American and anti-Israeli incitement, the senators wrote in a letter to the Kerry.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.