Kerry Says Israel Can Act on Settlements to Revive Talks

Kerry Says Israel Can Act on Settlements to Help Revive Talks
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu ahead of their meeting on May 23, 2013 in Jerusalem. Photographer: Uriel Sinai/Getty Images

Israel’s government can take action over Jewish settlements on the West Bank to help meet Palestinian concerns that are an obstacle to reviving peace talks, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said.

“The government has an ability to make a difference here in the next months,” Kerry told reporters at a press conference in Tel Aviv today. “It is my hope that they will.”

He was addressing efforts by Israeli authorities to legalize four unsanctioned Jewish settlement outposts in the West Bank, highlighted by Peace Now last week. The Israeli activist group cited documents from a court case over the outposts that showed the government is examining legal arrangements for the buildings.

Palestinians have refused to restart talks, which broke down more than two years ago, unless Israel freezes the construction of settlements in occupied territories.

While Kerry reaffirmed opposition to the settlements, which the U.S. along with the United Nations considers illegal, he said the issue shouldn’t be one that “prevents us from being able to get to negotiations,” and expressed support for a return to talks without preconditions. He said there’s no “artificial” timetable for that, though leaders must soon make “hard decisions.”

The top U.S. diplomat criticized the election in Iran, where more than 600 would-be candidates for the June 14 presidential vote were excluded by the Guardian Council, after they were vetted for commitment to the Islamic republic.

The process makes it “highly unlikely” that candidates will represent change or a fair choice, Kerry said. He also referred to complaints by the International Atomic Energy Agency over lack of access to Iranian nuclear sites, saying the issue is “very very much on our radar screen.”

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