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Tuesday, September 2, 2014

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Arab League backs peace talks as Israel decries leaks

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John Kerry

Representatives of the Arab League’s peace initiative committee expressed support for U.S. efforts to promote Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry in Paris on Sunday updated a ministerial delegation of the committee on the ongoing talks between Palestinians and Israelis.

Kerry reiterated the commitment of the United States to pursue intensive negotiations to end the conflict through a permanent status agreement, the U.S. State Department said Sunday.

“The delegation expressed its full support for the Secretary of State’s efforts and for the agreed upon nine-month timeline,” according to a statement released by the State Department.

The ministers also expressed concern over Israeli settlement activity in the West Bank as well as “unilateral Israeli actions in Jerusalem that create a negative environment,” the State Department said.

“The delegation hopes that the ongoing direct permanent status negotiations will lead to a resolution that achieves a just and lasting peace through resolving all permanent status issues as a major step towards comprehensive Middle East Peace which will contribute to regional security and stability,” the statement said.

The ministerial committee included representatives from Bahrain, Egypt, Jordan, Morocco, the Palestinian Authority, Qatar, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, along with the Arab League’s secretary general.

In related developments, a negotiator for Israel in the relaunched peace talks protested what he said are Palestinian officials’ leaks to the media about the content of the talks.

Isaac Molho, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s envoy to the peace talks, in a call over the weekend to his U.S. counterpart, Martin Indyk, complained about numerous leaks by named and unnamed Palestinian officials.

Molho said the leaks “violated all the agreements” agreed to by the two sides with Kerry, Ha’aretz reported, citing an unnamed Israeli official.

At the beginning of the talks in Washington in July, both sides agreed to maintain silence on the time, place and content of the meetings, reportedly at Kerry’s request.

Last week on the eve of Rosh Hashanah, in an interview with the Voice of Palestine radio, Yasser Abed Rabbo, secretary general of the Palestine Liberation Organization’s executive committee, said there has been “no progress” in the talks and that it will require pressure from the United States to advance toward peace.

During interviews given over Israel’s long holiday weekend for Rosh Hashanah, several other named and unnamed Palestinian officials similarly declared that the peace talks were stagnating.

Meanwhile, in Rome on Sunday, tens of thousands of people in St. Peter’s Square in Vatican City converged for a peace vigil for Syria called by Pope Francis, in which he called for peace and reconciliation throughout the Middle East.

“This evening, I ask the Lord that we Christians, and our brothers and sisters of other religions, and every man and woman of goodwill, cry out forcefully: violence and war are never the way to peace!” Pope Francis, who had spent the day fasting, told the crowd Saturday night.

“May the noise of weapons cease! War always marks the failure of peace, it is always a defeat for humanity,” he added. “Forgiveness, dialogue, reconciliation – these are the words of peace, in beloved Syria, in the Middle East, in all the world! Let us pray for reconciliation and peace, let us work for reconciliation and peace.”

The Vatican estimated that more than 100,000 people took part in the culmination of a “day of fasting and prayer for peace” convoked by Francis on Sept. 1.

The Vatican stressed the gathering was religious, not political, but observers said it resembled a political rally at times, with participants waving Syrian flags and wearing T-shirts and holding placards with slogans such as “Hands off Syria,” “Don’t attack Syria” and “Obama you have no dream, you have a nightmare.”

The Vatican reported that Pope Francis also tweeted the message “Pray for peace” to his nine million Twitter followers.

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