Kerry says Mideast talks focused on 'core' peace issues

Jan. 5, 2014 at 10:12 AM
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JERUSALEM, Jan. 5 (UPI) -- U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said talks between the Israelis and Palestinians remained on track Sunday before jetting off to Jordan and Saudi Arabia.

Kerry planned to meet with the kings of the two Arab nations to discuss the negotiations, which he said were still focused on the thornier issues between the two parties.

"I can tell everybody all of the core issues are on the table," Kerry said. "The difficult issues of security, of territory, borders, the future of the refugee issue, the status ultimately of the city of Jerusalem, and the end of conflict and of claims. How you arrive at a fair resolution of all of these complicated issues is obviously at the core of what we are talking about."

Kerry had little progress to report at a news conference in Jerusalem prior to his departure, but insisted the negotiations were serious and remained focused on an eventual end to the long-running standoff.

"We are at the table today because of the determination to try to resolve this issue, and both of them have made the tough choices to stay at that table," said Kerry. "We are now at a point where the choices narrow down and the choices are obviously real and difficult."

Kerry adamantly refused to provide details about exactly what obstacles remained or where progress had been made. He said his visits to Jordan and Saudi Arabia would include briefings with the kings of the two Arab nations.

Kerry said the coming days would be devoted to detail work among Israeli, Palestinian and U.S. officials while he returned to the United States. "We will continue discussions at staff level for a period of time," he said. "But as our teams flesh out some of the concepts that are on the table, as necessary, I will return."

The United States was also closely watching planned talks in South Sudan, where political rivalry in the fledgling nation has degenerated into factional fighting between the government and forces loyal to the former vice president.

Kerry said the recently announced negotiations should be serious and should not be used as a stalling tactic by either side while they jostle for military advantage. "The United States will support those who seek peace, but we will deny support and we will work to apply international pressure to any elements that attempt to use force to seize power," he said. "That is not acceptable."

Topics: John Kerry
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