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John Kerry pledges to restart Mideast peace process
Xinhua | February 14, 2013 08:30
By Agencies
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US Secretary of State John Kerry pledged on Wednesday to explore "every possibility" of restarting the peace process between the Israelis and the Palestinians, but insisted on listening to regional leaders first.

"We are committed, as I've said to Minister Judeh and to others, to explore every possibility," the top American envoy told reporters after meeting with Jordanian Foreign Minister Nasser Judeh at the State Department.

"And I believe that there are possibilities," he added. "I'm an optimist. If I weren't an optimist, I wouldn't have taken this job. "

However, President Barack Obama, who started his second term barely one month ago, is not prepared to do more than to listen to the parties at the moment, Kerry noted.

The president is scheduled to visit Israel, the West Bank and Jordan next month. "It affords him an opportunity to listen," Kerry said.

The secretary himself made a number of phone calls to foreign dignitaries soon after taking office on Feb. 1, including Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.

Kerry said the two leaders both agreed that there are things that could be done to reopen the stalemated peace process.

"The window is closing on this possibility," he said. "All the leaders I've talked to in the region have brought this topic up as a prime topic, and so it deserves our utmost consideration, and it will get that."

"I think we start out by listening and get a sense of what the current state of possibilities are and then begin to make some choices," he added. "It would be a huge mistake, almost an arrogant step, to suddenly be announcing this and that without listening first."

Obama made Netanyahu and Abbas sit down together for direct negotiations in Washington in early September 2010, but the talks broke down only weeks later due to Israel's refusal to renew a freeze on settlement building on the West Bank.

For his part, Judeh called peace in the Middle East "peace of mind for the rest of the world."

"There's agreement between us and the US that the window is closing and that we have to move fast and we have to work together, and that this remains a priority and is of paramount importance to all of us," the minister said.

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