U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry met with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in Jordan Saturday in an attempt defuse tensions between Israelis and Palestinians over the Temple Mount and restore calm as violence continued. Later Saturday, Kerry also met with Jordan's King Abdullah before taking off for Saudi Arabia.
During their meeting, Kerry presented Abbas with the proposals discussed with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during their Thursday meeting in Berlin and updated him on the implementation of additional steps he was still discussing with Israel.
In response, Abbas told Kerry that Israel must "maintain the historical status quo" in Jerusalem and added that he is waiting to see what deescalating measures Israel would take in the coming days.
On Friday, Kerry met with in Vienna with the foreign ministers of the Quartet – the U.S., Russia, EU and UN – about the recent round of violence between Israel and the Palestinians. After their meeting, the group issued a statement urging both sides to work to calm tensions and refrain from provocative actions or inflammatory statements.
Kerry said on Thursday he was “cautiously optimistic” about the proposals he discussed with Netanyahu for calming tensions. Netanyahu told Kerry and European Union foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini that Jordan and the Palestinian Authority must issue a statement making it clear that the status quo on the Temple Mount has not been violated.
A senior official in Kerry’s entourage told reporters that the secretary of state is interested in toning down the Israelis’ and Palestinians’ statements and mutual accusations. Kerry said he will clarify with Abbas and Abdullah how each of them views the significance of the status quo on the Temple Mount, in a bid to reach a joint understanding on the issue and calm the situation, the official said.
Meanwhile, violence continued during the weekend, with a Palestinian teen being shot dead on Saturday. On Friday, a 4-year-old girl moderately wounded when a firebomb was hurled at her family's car near the West Bank settlement of Beit El. Her parents and two siblings sustained light wounds in the attack.
Clashes also broke out between Israeli security forces and Palestinians in several areas in the West Bank and on the Gaza border Friday. Dozens of Palestinians were wounded by gunfire and tear gas fired by Israeli forces, according to Israeli and Palestinian figures, with one reportedly being killed in Gaza.
Over the past five weeks, 10 Israelis have been killed in Palestinian attacks and 48 Palestinians killed by Israeli fire, including 27 identified as terrorists.
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