Kerry “cautiously encouraged” on ending Palestinian-Israeli violence


US Secretary of State John Kerry said Thursday that he was “cautiously encouraged” after several hours of talks with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on ending a month of Palestinian-Israeli violence.

“That gave me a cautious measure of optimism that there may be some things in the next couple of days that could be put on the table which could have an impact on the perceptions of everybody engaged that there is a way to defuse the situation and begin to find a way forward,” Kerry said.

“I don’t want to be excessive stating that, but I am cautiously encouraged,” Kerry said, adding that what he and Netanyahu discussed had to be taken up with King Abdullah of Jordan and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, whom Kerry is meeting at the weekend.

He gave no details about what was proposed during his talks in Berlin.

Palestinian stabbing attacks on Israelis and clashes between Palestinians and Israeli soldiers have killed about 50 Palestinians and nine Israelis this month.

Earlier, Netanyahu’s office released a three-minute video in which Kerry chided Netanyahu, who was sitting next to him, for lashing out at Palestinian leaders and accusing them of “incitement” to violence.

“It’s critical to settle on the steps … that take us beyond the condemnations and beyond the rhetoric,” Kerry said.

In the video statements they spoke quietly, seated together in a private room, making no secret of their differences.

“There’s no question this wave of attacks is driven by incitement, by incitement from Hamas, incitement from the Islamist movement in Israel and incitement … from President Abbas,” Netanyahu contended.

“I think it’s time for the international community to say to President Abbas: Stop spreading lies about Israel,” he said. “It’s time to hold President Abbas accountable for his words and his deeds.”

After his discussions with Netanyahu, Kerry met with German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier and was also slated for a session with EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini.

The secretary of state said that at a Friday meeting in Vienna with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, he would press Washington’s view that Moscow ally Syrian President Bashar al-Assad must be forced out.

He said they both agreed on shoring up Syria’s institutions of government but only one thing stood in the way. “That is a person called Assad,” Kerry said.

Al-Assad flew Thursday to Moscow on a surprise visit, his first official trip outside the country since the 2011 start of Syria’s civil war, and thanked President Vladimir Putin for Russia’s military help.

Netanyahu had met Wednesday with German Chancellor Angela Merkel and reiterated a controversial claim accusing a Palestinian religious leader in 1941 of urging Nazi leader Adolf Hitler to carry out the Holocaust.

A German government spokesman responded by saying, “We know about the innate German responsibility for these crimes against humanity,” adding, “I don’t see any reason that we should in any way change our view of history.”