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Kerry urges Palestinians, Israelis to ease tensions


Amman, Feb 22: US Secretary of State John Kerry has met Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas and discussed tensions between Israelis and Palestinians in the West Bank and Jerusalem, the US State Department said.

Since October 1, Palestinian knife, gun and car-ramming attacks have taken the lives of 27 Israelis, an American and an Eritrean, according to an AFP count. At the same time, 176 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli forces, most while carrying out attacks but others during clashes and demonstrations.

John Kerry

"The secretary continued to urge for calm and a decrease in violence, incitement and inflammatory rhetoric," State Department spokesman John Kirby said yesterday. Kerry was in Jordan where he also met King Abdullah II, a key US ally in the fight against the Islamic State group, in the southern port of Aqaba.

A palace statement said the king stressed "the need for the international community and the United States first, to end the stalemate in the peace process between Palestinians and Israelis and to move towards a two-state solution". American diplomats said Kerry and Abdullah also discussed the Syrian conflict.

Kirby said Kerry had stressed to Abbas Washington's commitment to seeking a sustainable two-state solution "and to working with all parties to that end". "He also reiterated our policy on the illegitimacy of Israeli settlements," Kirby said.

US-brokered peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians collapsed in April 2014 and the prospects of fresh dialogue have appeared increasingly remote.

Some analysts say Palestinian frustration with Israeli occupation and settlement building in the West Bank, the complete lack of progress in peace efforts and their own fractured leadership have fed the unrest.

On Thursday, the Palestinians welcomed an initiative put forward by France for an international Middle East peace conference, a proposal which Israeli Benjamin Netanyahu dismissed.


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