Last updated: 13 November, 2014

Steps agreed to lower Israeli-Palestinian tensions, says Kerry

US Secretary of State John Kerry said Thursday that steps were agreed at talks in Amman to lower tensions between the Israelis and Palestinians.

After talks with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Jordan’s King Abdullah II, Kerry said “firm commitments” had been made to maintain the status quo at holy sites in Israeli-annexed east Jerusalem.

He said Israel and Jordan, which has custodial rights over the Al-Aqsa mosque in the Holy City, had also agreed to take steps to “de-escalate the situation” in Jerusalem and to “restore confidence.”

“We are not going to lay out each practical step, it is more important they be done in a quiet and effective way,” Kerry said a press conference with Jordanian Foreign Minister Nasser Judeh.

“It is clear to me that they are serious about working on the effort to create de-escalation and to take steps to instill confidence that the status quo will be upheld,” he said.

Kerry was pushing to calm surging tensions after months-long unrest in east Jerusalem, which has spread to the occupied West Bank and Arab communities across Israel in recent days, raising fears of a new Palestinian uprising.

Much of the unrest in Jerusalem has been fuelled by Israeli moves to step up settlement activity in the city’s eastern sector and by religious tensions at the Al-Aqsa compound, a site holy to both Muslims and Jews.

The Palestinians have been infuriated by a far-right Jewish campaign for prayer rights at Al-Aqsa, although Israel insists it has no plans to change the decades-old status quo.

Kerry said he had pressed Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas, at an earlier meeting in Amman, to also take concrete measures.

“President Abbas and I this morning discussed constructive steps, real steps, not rhetoric, that people can take in order to de-escalate the situation,” Kerry said.

“He made it clear that he will do everything possible to restore calm and to the prevent the incitement of violence.”