Obama sees ‘window of opportunity’ for Mideast peace talks

WASHINGTON (JTA) — U.S. President Barack Obama said there was a “window of opportunity” to kickstart Palestinian-Israeli peace talks, after a trip to the region by Secretary of State John Kerry.

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Speaking after a meeting on Thursday with U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, Obama said the two “talked about Middle East peace, where there’s at least a window of opportunity for both Israelis and Palestinians to get back to the peace table.”

“We explored how the United States, as a strong friend of Israel and a supporter of the Palestinian state, can work with the United Nations and multilateral bodies to try to move that process forward,” Obama said.

Israeli media reported that Israeli and Palestinian officials have taken issue with a number of parts of Kerry’s plan. Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas wants a full freeze on construction in the West Bank, while Israel is insisting there be no preconditions to talks, according to the reports on Israel Radio.

The comments came two days after Kerry dubbed his talks with Israeli and P.A. leaders this week “very constructive.”

The U.S. secretary of state, however, cautioned that it was more important to find ways of resuming the long-frozen negotiations correctly rather than “quickly.”

Abbas told Kerry on Sunday that Israel should freeze construction in the West Bank and eastern Jerusalem and release terrorist prisoners, especially those arrested before the 1993 Oslo Accords, before any resumption of peace talks. 

Kerry continued to London, where he attended a summit of foreign ministers from the G-8 industrial nations.

In its closing statement, the G-8 called among other things for the Israelis and the Palestinians ” to refrain from unilateral actions and to create an atmosphere conducive to peace,” code for Israel to stop settlement expansion and for the Palestinians not to seek statehood recognition outside of negotiations.

The G-8 also said that Iran’s only way out of punishing sanctions was to cooperate with the international community in making more transparent Iran’s nuclear program.

“Iran has the ability to avoid further isolation and improve its situation only if it promptly addresses the concerns of the international community<‘ said the April 11 statement.

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