Secretary Kerry returning to Mideast: How much nudging will he do?
Seeking to build on Obama's recent visit, John Kerry will be in Turkey and Israel – already his third trip there as secretary – to signal the Mideast parties 'he's serious' about making peace.
Secretary of State John Kerry will sit down with leaders in Turkey and Israel this weekend, anxious to test out what progress he might be able to make in long-stalled Middle East peace talks after both President Obama’s recent visit as well as his own attention to the region.Skip to next paragraph
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Secretary Kerry made it clear from the moment he assumed his post as chief US diplomat this year that he intended to give long-elusive peace between Israelis and Palestinians a serious shot – despite the long odds against success. By adding stops in Istanbul Saturday and then in Israel Sunday to a previously planned overseas trip, Kerry is out to hammer home to leaders in the region in particular that he intends to stay on the issue.
“He’s all in, he’s serious about this,” says one State Department official, speaking anonymously because he was not authorized to comment on Kerry’s trip. It will be Kerry’s third trip to Israel since taking office.
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In Istanbul, Kerry will try to build on the diplomatic coup President Obama was able to pull off during his trip to Israel last month that pulled Israeli-Turkish relations out of a long deep freeze. Obama persuaded Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to extend a formal apology to Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan for the deaths of nine activists in an Israeli commando raid on a Turkish aid-to-Gaza flotilla in 2010.
But all eyes will focus on Kerry’s subsequent meetings with Mr. Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. State Department officials emphasize that Kerry is not going to Israel with any “plan” for restarting talks in his pocket – but they also say that this trip aims to go beyond the “listening tour” that Kerry and Obama made to the region last month.
US officials and regional analysts with knowledge of the administration’s thinking say Kerry is likely to try to nudge Israelis and Palestinians toward some initial concrete steps to demonstrate to the other side that they are serious about setting the stage for negotiations.
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