Israel-Gaza conflict: John Kerry says Israel and Palestinians can achieve a lasting peace

The last round of US-brokered peace talks foundered in April over Israel’s objections to a Palestinian political unity pact

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The Independent Online

US Secretary of State John Kerry called on Sunday for a renewed commitment to Middle East peace, saying a lasting deal between Israel, the Palestinians and all their neighbours could be achieved.

But prospects for a renewed peace process appeared dim as he offered no specifics on how to restart negotiations in his speech to a Gaza reconstruction conference  in Cairo. The last round of US-brokered peace talks foundered in April over Israel’s objections to a Palestinian political unity pact including the Islamist Hamas movement and opposition to the expansion of Israeli settlements.

“Out of this conference must come not just money but a renewed commitment from everybody to work for peace that meets the aspirations of all, for Israelis, for Palestinians, for all people of this region,” Mr Kerry said. “And I promise you the full commitment of President Obama, myself and the United States to try to do that.”

He also announced an additional $212m  (£131.9m) in US aid to Palestinians in the Gaza Strip, which was badly damaged during a conflict with Israel in July and August in which 2,100 Palestinians died.

 

An estimated 18,000 homes and vital infrastructure were destroyed in the seven-week war. The Palestinians have put the cost of reconstruction at about $4bn over three years.

Qatar said it would provide $1bn in reconstruction assistance for Gaza, while fellow Gulf Arab states Kuwait and United Arab Emirates promised $200m each. Germany yesterday announced it would contribute €50m (£39.3m) to the reconstruction effort. The British ambassador to Egypt, John Casson, said the UK would provide $32m.

Egypt, which brokered the current ceasefire between Israel and the Palestinians in August, used the reconstruction conference to renew its call for a wider Middle East peace deal based on a 2002 Arab initiative, which Israel has rejected.

“We should turn this moment into a real starting point to achieve a peace that secures stability and flourishing and renders the dream of coexistence a reality, and this is the vision of the Arab peace initiative,” Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi said in his opening speech.

The Arab peace initiative offers full recognition of the Jewish state, but only if Israel  gives up all land it seized in the 1967 Middle East war and agrees to a “just solution” for Palestinian refugees.

Also speaking in Cairo, Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas said the 2002 Arab plan could be the framework for a new comprehensive approach to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.

Reuters

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