US Secretary of State travels to Middle East with draft framework agreement
US Secretary of State John Kerry was scheduled to arrive in the Middle East Thursday to try and promote a framework peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinians, dpa reported.
Kerry was expected to land in Tel Aviv in the early afternoon, US Embassy Spokesman Geoff Anisman told dpa, and shuttle between Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. He would stay at least until Friday, Anisman said.
The five-month-old negotiations with a nine-month deadline are reaching a boiling point, not least because of Palestinian anger over ongoing Israeli settlement construction and a dispute over the Jordan Valley, along the eastern West Bank.
State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf said the framework being drafted by Kerry would address all the core issues of the conflict.
That includes Jerusalem, borders, refugees, settlements and security arrangements.
"The framework agreement would serve as guidelines - and I don't know if I would use the word agreement; I would use the term "proposed framework" because it's only a proposed framework at this point," she told reporters in Washington.
Hoping to minimize international criticism during Kerry's visit, Netanyahu has postponed the publication of tenders for the construction of another 1,400 settler homes, apparently to next week.
Netanyahu freed another 26 Palestinian prisoners early Tuesday, as part of a commitment to release a total of 104 militants jailed since before the 1993 Oslo interim peace accords by April.
He also announced more construction projects in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem during previous prisoner releases in August and October, a move designed to appease hardliners in his government.