Abbas signs international conventions; Kerry cancels visit
Thursday, 3 April 2014 00:00
Reuters: Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas signed more than a dozen international conventions on Tuesday, citing anger at Israel’s delay of a prisoner release in a decision that jeopardised U.S. efforts to salvage fragile peace talks.
His unexpected move was aimed at solidifying the standing of Palestinians in global bodies, defying both Israel and the United States that have long opposed such unilateral action.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry immediately announced that he was cancelling a trip to the region on Wednesday that Washington had hoped would result in a three-way deal aimed at extending the negotiations into 2015.
“This is a moment to be really clear-eyed and sober about this process,” Kerry told reporters in Brussels, where he was attending a ministerial meeting of NATO.
“It is completely premature tonight to draw any kind of judgment, certainly any final judgment, about today’s events and where things are,” he said, making clear that he would pursue his efforts to end the generations-old Middle East conflict.
“We are continuing even now as I am speaking, to be engaged with both parties to find the best way forward.”
Abbas had pledged not to seek to join world bodies during the U.S.-brokered negotiations, which are scheduled to run until the end of April and have made little apparent headway so far.
Israel had promised in exchange to free more than 100 prisoners by the end of March, but failed to release the final batch, saying it wanted guarantees that the Palestinians would extend the negotiations beyond the April 29 deadline.
Kerry made an unscheduled visit to Jerusalem on Monday seeking to overcome the impasse by putting together a complex package that included the possible release of Jonathan Pollard, an Israeli spy jailed in the United States in the 1980s, and hundreds of Palestinians held by Israel, as well as a possible partial freeze on Israeli settlement in occupied territory. He had hoped to wrap up the accord on Wednesday.