Kerry: Final status agreement remains goal

JERUSALEM (JTA) — A final status peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinians remains the United States’ goal, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said.

“Our goal remains as it always has been – for the Israelis and Palestinians to reach a final status agreement – not an interim agreement, a final status agreement. And both parties remain committed to fulfilling their obligations to stay at the table and negotiate hard during the nine-month period that we set for that,” Kerry said Friday in Jerusalem after meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority Mahmoud Abbas.

ADVERTISEMENT

The meeting Thursday evening between Kerry and Abbas was cut short due to a major snowstorm, out of fear that the Kerry motorcade would not be able to leave the area. Kerry met Friday with Netanyahu in Jerusalem, after missing their scheduled meeting Thursday due to the snowstorm.

Kerry told reporters in Jerusalem that the sides continue to discuss the “critical issues,”  which he identified as borders, security, refugees, Jerusalem, mutual recognition, and an end to conflict and to all claims.

Kerry reiterated the United States commitment to Israel’s security, adding “We are working on an approach that both guarantees Israel’s security and fully respects Palestinian sovereignty.”

Kerry also announced that the third release of Palestinian prisoners, pledged by Israel to bring the Palestinians back to the negotiating table more than 3 months ago, will take place on Dec. 29 as scheduled, despite his calls for a delay in order to prevent another Israeli announcement of new settlement construction approvals which could disrupt or potentially halt the current peace process.