Kerry 'Cautiously Optimistic' About Proposals for Easing Israeli-Palestinian Tensions

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United States Secretary of State John Kerry speaks during a press briefing in Berlin, Germany, October 22, 2015.Credit: Reuters

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said Thursday that he is "cautiously optimistic" about the proposals he discussed with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for calming tensions between Israel and the Palestinians.

At the conclusion of a meeting between the two, which took place in Berlin Thursday, Kerry said he will need to bring these proposals before Jordan's King Abdullah and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas during his meetings with them this weekend.

European Union Foreign Policy Chief Federica Mogherini and German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier arrive for a joint news conference at the Foreign Ministry in Berlin, October 22, 2015.Credit: Reuters

During their meeting, which lasted four hours, Netanyahu and Kerry agreed that the incitement needs to end, tensions need to be eased, and calm must be restored, an Israeli official said. Netanyahu also reiterated, according to the source, that Israel is committed to maintaining the status quo on the Temple Mount.

Meanwhile, the Quartet of Middle East peace mediators announced that their foreign ministers will meet in Vienna on Friday to discuss the security situation in Jerusalem and the West Bank.

This will be the second meeting of the foreign ministers of the Quartet – the United States, Russia, the United Nations and European Union –  in less than a month. Their last meeting took place late September on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly.

Netanyahu and Kerry's meeting Thursday morning was aimed at finding ways to stop the escalation of violence in Israel and the West Bank and to calm the tensions between Israelis and Palestinians.

“We need to take steps that will take us beyond the rhetoric and the condemnations,” Kerry said at the start of the meeting, which took place about an hour after a stabbing attack by terrorists in Beit Shemesh in which an Israeli was wounded.

A senior official in Kerry’s entourage told reporters that the secretary of state is interested in lowering the tone and the accusations in the public statements that Israelis and Palestinians are directing at one another.

A senior official accompanying Kerry said at the secretary’s meeting with Netanyahu on Thursday and with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Jordanian King Abdullah in Amman on Friday, Kerry intends to clarify with each of them how they view the significance of the status quo on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem in an effort to come to a joint understanding on the issue and to calm the situation on the ground.

Israeli Vice Prime Minister Silvan Shalom met with French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius on Thursday in Paris.  The two discussed joint ways to lower the flames in the region, and how to renew contacts with the Palestinians. Shalom asked Fabius to apply his full efforts to convincing Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to put an end to the violence and calm the Palestinian street.

Shalom told Fabius that Israel objects to the French initiative in the United Nations Security Council on the Temple Mount, as does Jordan and the United States. The French initiative should have been written from the beginning with Israeli cooperation, as well as that of Jordan and the United States. Since the French move was not done with Israeli agreement, it must be rejected, Shalom told Fabius.

Fabius told Shalom that the Security Council proposal   was not supposed to have been raised in such a fashion and there was a regrettable misunderstanding. The two agreed that in the future such moves would be done with the cooperation of all parties involved.

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