Last updated: 2 May, 2013

Kerry and Israel’s Livni talk Middle East peace

Israeli chief negotiator Tzipi Livni met Thursday with US Secretary of State John Kerry to discuss reviving the Middle East peace process, only days after a much-heralded Arab League visit here.

Flying in under the radar from Israel, Livni met with Kerry for about 30 minutes, with US officials declining to divulge any concrete details.

“This opportunity was part of the secretary’s ongoing discussions with Israeli and Palestinian officials and Arab and European officials, who have much at stake, as well to explore possible ways forward to resolve this conflict,” acting deputy State Department spokesman Patrick Ventrell said.

“They discussed the full range of political and security issues facing Israel.”

But he refused to go into specifics, after Arab League leaders appeared to make a surprise concession Monday in saying a Palestinian state should be based on the 1967 borders but with mutually-agreed land swamps with Israel.

Livni had hailed the comment as “very good news,” but Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu poured cold water on it within hours, saying that “the root of the conflict is not territorial. It started a long time before 1967.”

“The Palestinians’ lack of will to recognize the state of Israel as the national state of the Jewish people is the root of the conflict,” he said.

Ventrell pointed to “several positive developments” this week, adding that Kerry would pursue further discussion on the issue.

Livni was accompanied at the meeting by Israeli negotiator Isaac Molho, as well as Israel’s Ambassador to the United States Michael Oren.

Kerry was backed up by his Deputy Chief of Staff Bill Danvers, special envoy for the Middle East David Hale and deputy special envoy Frank Lowenstein, US officials confirmed to AFP.

On Monday, he met with an Arab League delegation, also far from prying eyes, to discuss reviving the 2002 Arab Peace Initiative.

Under the original Saudi-led plan, the League’s 22 members would forge full diplomatic relations with Israel in exchange for the Jewish state’s “total withdrawal” to the June 4, 1967 lines that preceded the Six-Day War, and the establishment of a Palestinian state.

But after the talks, Qatari Prime Minister Sheikh Hamad bin Jassem Al Thani, who headed the delegation, announced the Arab League recognized the need for a “comparable and mutual agreed minor swap of the land” to reflect the changing demographics on the ground.

Kerry, who since becoming the top US diplomat in February has made it a priority to find a way to revive the stalled Israeli-Palestinian peace process, hailed the surprise move as a “very big step forward.”