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Kerry to revive peace talks between Israel and Palestine

May 23, 2013 18:45 IST

Israel's hawkish Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Thursday assured the United States that resuming peace talks with the Palestinians tops his agenda, amid prevalent scepticism about the Obama Administration's effort to bring both sides to the negotiating table.

"This is something that both you and I want, and I hope also the Palestinians want," Netanyahu said at the start of his meeting with visiting US Secretary of State John Kerry.

Kerry arrived in Israel today on his fourth trip since he assumed office in February to push for the resumption of peace talks between the Israelis and Palestinians stalled since 2010 over Israel's settlement policy on the occupied land.

While admitting that there was scepticism and cynicism about his efforts to broker new talks between Israelis and Palestinians, Kerry praised Netanyahu for the "seriousness" with which he is looking at ways to revitalise peace talks.

"I know this region well enough to know there is scepticism, in some quarters there is cynicism and there are reasons for it. There have been bitter years of disappointment," he said.

"It is our hope that by being methodical, careful, patient, but detailed and tenacious, that we can lay on a path ahead that can conceivably surprise people and certainly exhaust the possibilities for peace," Kerry insisted.

Netanyahu said he wanted to restart talks with the Palestinians.

"We ought to be successful. When there's a will, we'll find a way," the Israeli prime minister said.

Netanyahu also noted that they would also discuss the Syria crisis and the Iranian nuclear threat.

He hailed the "extraordinary resolution" overwhelmingly passed by the US Senate on Wednesday committing Washington's support for Jerusalem in case of nuclear threat from Iran.

The US Secretary is scheduled to meet later today President Shimon Peres and Justice Minister Tzipi Livni, who will be in charge of negotiations with the Palestinians.

This will be Livni's third meeting with Kerry this month, after he met him in Washington and Rome.

This is Kerry's fourth visit in two months to the region since US President Barack Obama visited Israel in late March.

Officials in the Prime Minister's Office told the Jerusalem Post that Netanyahu and Kerry speak on a regular basis, about once "every two to three days."

The US Secretary of State will later today travel to Ramallah for talks with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.

After initial pessimism over the chances of reviving the stalled peace talks for almost four years, the Palestinians seem to have recently warmed up to Kerry.

"Make no mistake we are exerting every possible effort in order to see that Kerry succeeds. No one benefits more from the success of Secretary Kerry than Palestinians and no one loses more from his failure than Palestinians," Chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat had told the UN committee on rights of the Palestinian people earlier this week.

Erekat said he had met US' top diplomat some three times in the past two months and the Palestinian President met with the US Secretary of State five times, besides the three of them talking over phone almost every week in efforts to start the peace talks.

"We want to give a chance to all nations who have a common denominator of achieving two states on the 1967 lines," Erekat said.

"There is a chance, there is a good opportunity now," he stressed.

Harinder Mishra in Jerusalem
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