US Secretary of State John Kerry sought Sunday to calm fears that Israeli-Palestinian peace talks are faltering, saying he remained hopeful there would be progress in the coming months.
But he renewed his plea for the world — keen for a deal to end six decades of animosity between the two sides — to give negotiators space to work.
“I remain hopeful, and we will make every effort in the United States to move the process forward in a fair-handed way, a balanced way that reflects the complexity of these issues,” Kerry said, speaking at a joint news conference with Egyptian foreign minister Nabil Fahmy.
He stressed that the United States remained committed to a goal of a final peace deal, but acknowledged recent tensions, particularly after Israel announced it would go ahead with 1,500 settler homes in east Jerusalem.
“There is no doubt… that the settlements have disturbed people’s perceptions of whether or not people are serious and are moving in the right direction,” he admitted.
“We all need to try to give this negotiation the space it needs,” Kerry said, shortly after arriving in Cairo on the first stop of an 11-day tour, which will also take him to Israel and the Palestinian territories.
After almost three years of stalemate, Kerry doggedly persuaded the two sides in late July to resume their negotiations aimed at achieving two states living side by side.
And he has insisted that the direct talks maintain a radio silence on what progress is being made, in order to prevent any efforts to torpedo them.
Kerry is due to meet later in the week with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas in order to once again seek to chart a path forward.
“I am hopeful within the next months that we can make progress and I ask people everywhere to keep their minds open, to speak the language of peace, not hatred, not war… but the possibilities of what peace could bring to everybody,” Kerry told reporters in Cairo.
“I believe there is an ability to move forward, but we have to remain calm and dedicated and committed to a quiet process by which difficult decisions can be discussed.”