WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry will meet next week with Israeli and Palestinian leaders in the region to try to stop ongoing violence, although senior U.S. official insisted it was not a renewed effort to broker a peace accord.
The State Department said Kerry will travel to Tel Aviv, Jerusalem and Ramallah on a trip that will also include a stop in the United Arab Emirates to discuss the Syrian conflict.
Kerry last met with Netanyahu in Berlin in October to try to end a spate of bloodshed and stop what Washington regarded as provocative statements by Israeli and Palestinian leaders over the management of Jerusalem’s al-Aqsa mosque.
With the latest visit, Kerry hopes to move things in a “more positive direction” and prevent the collapse of the Palestinian Authority, the official said. The talks will explore a “variety of ideas” on how to ease tensions, the official said without elaborating.
The official said violence had abated somewhat over the course of a few weeks but picked up again in recent days, with the killing of five people in attacks in Tel Aviv and in the occupied West Bank. An American was among the dead.
The official said it was not Kerry’s intention to try to urge the sides to resume peace talks on a two-state solution.
“There is no agreement to be reached between the parties now,” the official said, adding: “There is nothing we’re trying to get them to agree to, we’re trying to encourage both of them to do the kind of things that will be helpful and in their interest and our interest in preserving stability.”
Kerry will urge the leaders to take concrete steps to restore calm, the official said. “We want to see bigger changes on the ground to stabilize the situation in a more sustainable way,” he said.
This week, Washington criticized Netanyahu’s decision to approve the marketing of land for the construction of 454 homes in two East Jerusalem settlements which previously had been shelved.
Among the causes of the turmoil is Palestinians’ anger at what they see as Jewish encroachment on the al-Aqsa mosque compound in Jerusalem’s Old City, Islam’s holiest site outside Saudi Arabia, which is also revered by Jews as the location of two ancient temples.
Eighteen Israelis have been killed in Palestinian stabbings, shootings and vehicle attacks since the start of October. Eighty Palestinians have been killed in attacks and during anti-Israeli protests.
Reporting by Idrees Ali and Lesley Wroughton; Editing by Ralph Boulton and Digby Lidstone