Israeli soldiers take position during clashes with Palestinian protesters following demonstration against Israeli-occupied West Bank settlements expansion, on April 25, 2014, near Ramallah
Israeli soldiers take position during clashes with Palestinian protesters following demonstration against Israeli-occupied West Bank settlements expansion, on April 25, 2014, near Ramallah © Abbas Momani - AFP
Israeli soldiers take position during clashes with Palestinian protesters following demonstration against Israeli-occupied West Bank settlements expansion, on April 25, 2014, near Ramallah
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AFP
Last updated: April 26, 2014

US in "holding period" in Middle East peace talks

Top US diplomat John Kerry does not see his efforts to broker Middle East peace as a failure, but his team is adopting a "holding period" as Israelis and Palestinians decide their next moves, a US official said Friday.

"This is a moment of transition," said State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki. "We can't force the parties to take steps they're unwilling to take."

"We're in a holding period to see what the parties are willing to figure out about what's next."

Kerry's attempts to broker a peace deal by April 29 all but collapsed on Thursday when Israel pulled out of the negotiations, angered by the Palestinian move to form a unity government with the militant Hamas group.

But Psaki denied that Kerry felt he had failed in his efforts since taking office in February 2013 to seal a long-elusive peace treaty.

"He's always said that he believed it was worth it, not just for the United States to engage in this effort as a facilitator or to play any role possible in helping these parties come to the table, but worth it for the parties because the status quo is not sustainable," Psaki told reporters.

"Because the future where there is a two-state solution, where there is greater opportunity, where there is greater economic prosperity, is still in the interest of both people," she insisted.

"And we continue to believe that it's in America's interest as well as Israel's interest and the interests of the Palestinian people to see if we can resolve this conflict."

She revealed that Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas had insisted that any government formed with Hamas "will be his government and represent his policies, and that includes recognition of Israel, commitment to non-violence, adherence to prior agreements and commitment to peaceful negotiations toward a two-state solution."

Abbas's assurances were a "positive thing," Psaki said, but Washington would need to see what happens over the coming weeks.

Israel pulled out of the negotiations on Thursday, saying it would not sit down with an organization that is committed to the destruction of the Jewish state.

Psaki would not be drawn on whether the US would seek to coax Israel back to the talks if Abbas follows through with his commitment that a new government would meet all the principles of peace.

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