John Kerry meets fresh opposition in peace talks

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry. Picture: AP
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry. Picture: AP
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Palestinian protesters yesterday condemned the latest efforts by US secretary of state John Kerry to advance peace talks with Israel, as it emerged Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu has “serious, serious concerns” about parts of the deal.

Republican senator John McCain spoke from Jerusalem where Mr Kerry is making his tenth visit to craft a peace ­accord, saying he shares Mr Netanyahu’s concerns about whether some parts of the plan to broker peace with the Palestinians are enforceable, viable options that do not jeopardise Israel’s security.

Meanwhile, protesters on the streets used chants evoking the Arab uprisings and told Mr Kerry to “go home”.

Hours before Mr Kerry was due to meet Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas, a raucous crowd of several hundred took to the streets of Ramallah, the West Bank’s de facto capital, chanting: “Kerry, you coward, there’s no place for you in ­Palestine.”

Separately, an official close to Mr Abbas dismissed Mr Kerry’s drive for a “framework agreement” as biased toward Israel.

The secretary of state has said such an accord would narrow gaps between the sides and pave the way for a final deal when the nine-month period allotted the US-backed talks expires on 29 April.

But Yasser Abed Rabbo, Mr Abbas’s deputy in the Palestine Liberation Organisation, said the plan, still being finalised, “restricts Palestinian sovereignty on Palestinian land”.

“The Palestinian side will not even look at a worthless piece of paper, a framework agreement, which contains general principles for later negotiations, when the two sides have already been negotiating for months and years,” Abed Rabo said in a statement published in the al-Ayyam newspaper yesterday.

Palestinian and Israeli officials have publicly differed on the future status of the West Bank’s border with Jordan, where Israelis want a permanent security presence but Palestinians want a full withdrawal of Israeli soldiers and Jewish settlers.

Israel said last week it planned to build another 1,400 homes in settlements in the occupied West Bank.

Mr Kerry has said the agreement, besides borders and security, would aim to address all the conflict’s key issues, such as refugees and Jerusalem.

The senior US diplomat held five hours of talks with Mr Netanyahu on Thursday and saw him yesterday. He was also due to see Mr Abbas yesterday.

About 300 activists with the left-wing Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine party rallied in Ramallah hours before Kerry’s scheduled arrival.

“The people want the fall of the framework,” they chanted, evoking the chants heard in protests throughout the Middle East in 2011. “It’s clear, Kerry, we don’t want to see you. The Americans are the enemy of our people.”

Dozens of riot policemen prevented their march from reaching Ramallah’s presidential compound, where Mr Abbas was expected to receive Mr Kerry.

Mr McCain said yesterday: “Netanyahu has serious, serious concerns about the plan as it has been presented to him, whether it be on the ability of Israel to defend its borders, on the reliability of a Palestinian state… and particularly on the overall security. We also are very ­concerned.”