Kerry, Arab League envoys discuss refugee crisis, Mideast peace

July 17, 2013 at 6:27 PM
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AMMAN, Jordan, July 17 (UPI) -- Jordanian Foreign Minister Nasser Judeh said Wednesday Jordan needs more international support to cope with 550,000 refugees from the Syrian civil war.

Judeh, speaking with reporters after a meeting between U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and members of the Arab Peace Initiative Follow-Up Committee, said the meeting was intended as a review of "the developments, especially in terms of the intensive efforts exerted" by Kerry to foster stability, prosperity and peace in the region.

"Also there is great focus by the secretary of state in terms of the repercussions of the Syrian situation on Jordan," he said. "Jordan is hosting about 550,000 refugees on its territories, from Syria of course."

Judeh thanked the Obama administration and "all the relevant agencies for their help to Jordan to host these refugees."

"There is other support given to us by other international sources, however, still we are in need for more support in order to deliver the required services for the refugees, especially when it comes to the sensitive sectors that were impacted with this inflow of refugees," he said.

Kerry said his counterparts at the meeting in Amman, Jordan, told him "the core issue of instability in this region and in many other parts of the world is the Palestinian-Israeli conflict."

"I have stayed in very close contact with both Prime Minister Netanyahu and President Abbas," Kerry said. "And I know that despite everything else that is happening in the region, despite all of the pressures of neighboring states, of refugees, of conflict, despite the pressures of a volatile neighborhood, the fact is that both sides continue to work up to this point in good faith in a good effort in order to try to find a way to succeed."

The top U.S. diplomat also was considering a possible visit to a Syrian refugee camp, Voice of America said.

"We also, needless to say, discussed Egypt," Kerry said. "The challenge of Egypt is very real. Egypt is important, and it's important that I came here to discuss it, because Egypt is vital to the security of the region, it is vital to some of the flow of supplies to the region, it is vital to the security of the Sinai, it is vital to the security of Gaza and to the maintenance of the Gaza cease-fire, and in the end, it is also vital to the peace treaty between it and Israel.

"We remain broadly committed to an inclusive democratic process in Egypt," Kerry said.

"And we were very pleased to see the increasing commitment day to day to making sure that Egypt will move rapidly to the constitutional process that will guarantee the democracy for all of its citizens."

Kerry has visited the region six times since becoming secretary of state this year and has made resurrecting Israeli-Palestinian negotiations a top priority.

While saying talks last month with officials from both sides produced progress, Kerry doesn't plan to meet with Israeli officials on this trip. He met Tuesday with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to discuss the peace process, as well as efforts to boost the Palestinian economy and other developments in the Middle East.

Abbas has said he would not return to the talks until Israel suspends Jewish settlement construction on occupied land in the West Bank and East Jerusalem -- areas Palestinians have claimed for an independent state.

During an emergency ministerial meeting Tuesday, Netanyahu criticized new EU guidelines that ban EU members from funding Israeli settlements in Palestinian territories, VOA said.

Netanyahu said Israel wouldn't accept any "external edicts" about its borders and such decisions would be resolved only through direct talks with the Palestinians.

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