Report: U.S. secretary of state to ask Israel for settlement freeze

July 7, 2013 at 7:53 AM
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RAMALLAH, West Bank, July 7 (UPI) -- U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry plans to ask Israel to impose a temporary settlement freeze to advance peace talks with the Palestinians, diplomats said.

In an effort to jump-start peace negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians, Kerry is expected to raise his demands during his next visit to the region, the London newspaper al-Hayat reported Saturday.

The newspaper report from Ramallah, based on unnamed Western diplomats, said Kerry's plan to revive talks includes the establishment of a Palestinian state based on 1967 borders with any changes agreed upon by both sides; limiting the resumption of talks to a time frame of six to nine months; requiring Israel to impose a construction freeze on West Bank settlements outside the large settlement blocs while talks take place; and a demand that Israel release 103 Palestinian prisoners incarcerated in Israel before the signing of the Oslo Accords.

In efforts to boost the Palestinian economy and encourage growth, Kerry intends to advance a three-phase economic project to the tune of about $4 billion and Israel will be required to permit the Palestinians to build projects in Area C, an area under full Israeli control. (Under the Oslo Accords, the West Bank was divided into three areas. Area A -- under full Palestinian control; Area B -- under Israel's security control and Palestinian civilian control; and Area C -- under full Israeli control.)

The newspaper said Kerry is expected to return to the region toward the end of the week, his sixth visit since taking office.

While there has been no official Israeli response to the report, Palestinian officials are said to be divided, the newspaper said. Some view it as a repackaging of old ideas and others expressed doubts a resumption of talks will lead to a final solution acceptable to the Palestinians. The newspaper noted a failure to resume talks could lead to another intifada.

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