Kerry reiterates U.S.-Israeli ties

April 8, 2013 at 3:29 PM
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JERUSALEM, April 8 (UPI) -- U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry reiterated Monday the United States will stand by Israel against threats made by Iran.

Concerning threats from Iran and elsewhere, Kerry said in a statement after meeting with Israeli President Shimon Peres in Jerusalem Israel has a friend in President Obama, his administration and the U.S. Congress.

"We understand the nature of the threat of Iran. And as the President has said many times -- he doesn't bluff. He is serious. We will stand with Israel against this threat and with the rest of the world, who have underscored that all we are looking for is Iran to live up to its international obligations," Kerry said. "No option is off the table. No option will be taken off the table."

While the United States would still seek a diplomatic resolution to Iran's nuclear aspirations, Kerry said, "our eyes are open, and we understand the clock is moving. And no one will allow the diplomatic process to stand in the way of whatever choices need to be made to protect the world from yet another nuclear weapon in the wrong hands."

Concerning efforts to restart Israeli-Palestinian peace talks, Kerry noted that Monday was Yom HaShoah, or Holocaust Remembrance Day, and the lesson that could be learned. Kerry laid a wreath at Yad Vashem, a living memorial to the Holocaust to mark the day.

And I think the lesson of today is underscored in your comments about the possibilities for peace, the possibilities for people to live together without hatred, and finding the common ground," Kerry said. "I believe in that, and I know you believe in that."

"We all know it's not easy. But as you said yourself, it can be done," Kerry said to Peres. "And it has been expressed by your leaders and others through years that people believe in the possibility of a two-state solution."

"I am convinced there is a road forward," the secretary said, "and I look forward to the discussions with your leaders and yourself regarding how that road could be sort of reignited, if you will, once again setting out on that path.

Before his meeting with Peres, Kerry spoke with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, who sought more preconditions before peace talks with Israel can resume.

Abbas said Israel must turn over an area of the West Bank it controls, demanded that Israel pledge to refrain from withholding Palestinians' tax revenues in the future and called for the immediate release of Palestinian prisoners because of a hunger strike in Israeli jails, Ma'an news agency reported Monday.

One area of the West Bank, identified as Area C, is under Israel's exclusive control under terms of the Oslo Accords, the 1993 attempt to establish a framework that would lead to the resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

"The issue of the prisoners is now at the top of our list of priorities," a Palestinian Authority official told The Jerusalem Post. "Without the release of a significant number of prisoners, especially those who are on hunger strike and facing death at any moment, there can be no talk about resuming the peace process."

Abbas also repeated his previous demand that Israel stop building in all settlements and East Jerusalem, as well as release dozens of Palestinians who were in prison before the signing of the Oslo Accords.

"President Abbas reiterated his refusal to resume peace talks with Israel unless the Israeli government stopped its policy of settlement construction," the official told the Post. "We are also demanding that Israel hand over to the Palestinian Authority parts of Area C in the West Bank."

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