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Dagelijks archief 8 september 2013

Israeli forces clash with Al-Quds university students

JERUSALEM (Ma’an) — Israeli forces fired tear gas and rubber bullets at Al-Quds university students in Abu Dis on Sunday, witnesses said.

An Israeli border police patrol stopped and searched several students at the main gate of the university in Abu Dis, inspecting identity cards and detaining several students for over an hour.

Clashes broke out after university staff prevented Israeli forces from entering the campus.

Israeli forces fired tear gas canisters and rubber-coated steel bullets, with over 30 students suffering from smoke inhalation.

Eight students were injured by rubber bullets and transferred to Abu Dis emergency center.

Executive Vice President of Al-Quds University Imad Abu Keshik strongly condemned Israeli raids on the campus, which have taken place several times since the beginning of the academic year.

Israeli forces are trying to provoke students and create a sense of instability around the campus, he added.

Al-Quds university has around 12,000 students aged between 17-25 and is located away from residential areas, meaning that any Israeli patrol is likely directly targeting the university.

The Palestinian liaison office has reported the incident to the Israeli side and urged them not to target university buildings.

Israeli forces claim that they are stationed near Al-Quds university campus to oversee construction and maintenance work on the separation wall, Abu Keshik said.

Fatah official Anwar Bader strongly condemned the raid and called on international and human rights group to intervene.

University guards Radwan Dawod and Mohammad Darwish were wounded in the clashes and transferred to local medical centers for treatment.

(Source / 08.09.2013)

Obama’s Syria difficulties cause worries in Israel

Israeli soldiers from the Golani Brigade take part in a military training exercise on Sept. 1.

JERUSALEM (AFP) — President Barack Obama’s difficulties in securing support for a strike on Syria are seen by Israeli media and analysts as a sign of the decline of American deterrence in the Middle East.

Congress will on Monday begin to debate military action proposed by Obama, who accuses Syrian President Bashar Assad’s regime of perpetrating an attack with chemical weapons near Damascus last month that killed more than 1,400 people.

But for Israeli commentators, a congressional green light is far from assured.

Even France — so far the most solid voice of support for armed action from the international community — wants to wait for the UN report on the August 21 incident, before a possible strike.

“President in a trap” declared the Sunday front page of Israel Hayom, the top circulation daily considered close to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

“Alone in the battle” was the headline of widely read Yediot Aharonot next to a picture of Obama with tightly pursed lips.

“The United States cannot afford to be seen as a weak and declining superpower whose red lines are not complied with,” said Boaz Ganor, director of the institute for counter terrorism at the Interdisciplinary Center Herzliya, near Tel Aviv.

“It is essential for Obama to get the green light from Congress — not for the sake of the strike, which is likely to be merely symbolic — but in order to preserve the credibility of the American deterrent force in the Middle East,” Ganor added.

Israeli officials have remained silent — at Netanyahu’s orders — about a possible strike on Syria.

Israel has already taken military precautions against a spillover from Syria onto its territory in the wake of a possible US strike.

“We are watching over Israel, an island of tranquility, quiet and security,” Netanyahu said at his weekly cabinet meeting on Sunday, not naming Syria but only noting “the storm raging around us”.

Errors of judgment’

According to Yediot Aharonot’s military commentator, the likelihood of US strikes against Syria is now “less than 50 percent”.

“If Obama’s conduct up until last week unsettled his allies in the Middle East, today it is seriously beginning to worry them.

“Heads of state in the region now realize that while Obama has a very solid worldview, in practice he translates it into gut decisions,” wrote Alex Fishman of the president seeking congressional approval for a strike.

“Obama is losing credibility in the Middle East, where only the strong leaders are respected,” said Efraim Inbar, director of the Begin-Sadat Centre for Strategic Studies at Bar-Ilan University near Tel Aviv.

“He was already perceived as weak in the region because of his many errors of judgment, particularly in regards to Egypt and Libya,” he added.

For former deputy foreign minister Danny Ayalon, who also served as ambassador to the US, seeking congressional approval could be a way for Obama to avoid taking action on Syria.

“An appeal to Congress for limited military action of this kind is almost unprecedented in American history,” he told army radio.

“Obama did not need the approval to act against this kind of situation, as many other American presidents did in the past,” he said.

In contrast, President Shimon Peres, whose function is largely ceremonial, defended Obama’s tactics, saying that weighing decisions was not tantamount to dithering.

“I recommend patience. I am confident that the US will respond in the right way to Syria,” he said in an interview with army radio last week.

For Inbar, the “true test” of the United States will be Iran, which Washington believes is seeking to develop nuclear arms, despite Tehran’s denials.

“After his hesitation on Syria, the only way for Obama to restore American deterrence in the region is by preventing Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons, using military means if necessary,” he said.

(Source / 08.09.2013)

Egypt appoints Amr Moussa as head of Constitutional Panel

Amr Moussa was elected as head of the 50-member constitution drafting committee on Sunday.

Egyptian former presidential candidate Amr Moussa has been appointed head of the constitution drafting committee, it was announced on Sunday.

The 50-member panel tasked with amending Egypt’s previous constitution has convened for the first time at the headquarters of Egypt’s Shura council (upper house of parliament), Ahram Online reported.

Chairman of the Syndicate of Lawyers and the Arab Nasserist party, Sameh Ashour was also in the running to stand for the post of chairman, Ahram reported.

The panel has two months to submit a final version of the revised constitution to the interim president, who in turn has 30 days to announce the date of a referendum.

Work by the constitution-drafting body is at its second stage following initial proposals made by a ten-member legal panel.

The panel is made up of mostly secular figures, with the Muslim Brotherhood refusing to take part as they argue that Egypt’s new authorities were illegitimate since the army ousted former Islamist President Mohammad Mursi on July 3.

Islamist groups from Salafist al-Nour party, as well as representatives from al-Azhar, the highest Sunni Islamic authority in Egypt, and Christian representatives are present on the panel.

(Source / 08.09.2013)

Israel deploys iron dome system near Jerusalem

In previous weeks Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has repeatedly said Israel was not involved in the war in Syria, but would “respond with force” if anyone attacked it.

Israel deployed its Iron Dome missile defense system near Jerusalem Sunday, an AFP correspondent said, as the United States lobbied for domestic and international support for military strikes against Syria.

The correspondent said the battery was set up west of the city.

A military spokeswoman would not comment on the deployment, saying only that “defence systems are deployed in accordance with situation assessments.”

Late last month a battery of the mobile system was set up in the greater Tel Aviv area, pointing northwards towards Syria. Israeli media have reported that six or seven such batteries are currently in use.

Speaking at a cabinet meeting on Sunday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called Israel “an island of tranquility, quiet and security” amidst “the storm raging around us,” without explicitly mentioning Syria or its ally Iran.

In previous weeks Netanyahu has repeatedly said Israel was not involved in the war in Syria, but would “respond with force” if anyone attacked it.

There are fears that if the United States and its allies attack Syria, forces of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad or its Lebanese Hezbollah proxies could retaliate against neighboring Israel, Washington’s key ally in the region.

Late last month, Iran’s army chief of staff General Hassan Firouzabadi warned: “Any military action against Syria will drive the Zionists to the edge of fire.”

US President Barack Obama’s administration is seeking to shore up support both at home and abroad for limited military strikes against Syria in retaliation for what it says is the regime’s use of chemical weapons in a Damascus suburb.

In Washington, Congress is due to begin full debate this week on whether to approve Obama’s plans when it returns from its summer break on Monday.

(Source / 08.09.2013)

NGOs network: The Gaza people live in very difficult conditions

 

 

GAZA, (PIC)– The Palestinian NGOs network said that the Gaza Strip population live in very difficult humanitarian conditions as a result of the Israeli blockade, the destruction of tunnels and the closure of crossings.

In a press release on Saturday, director of the network Amjad Al-Shawwa condemned the absence of serious international action to end the blockade on Gaza despite all human rights reports that had talked about its deteriorating humanitarian situation.

Shawwa noted that several international reports had stated that about 57 percent of the Gazan families suffer from food insecurity.

He warned that the power station would stop to operate any day as a result of the fuel crisis and consequently, all service sectors, especially the hospitals, would suffer considerably.

He also pointed out to the international report indicating that more than 95 percent of Gaza water is unfit for human consumption, not to mention its acute scarcity.

“All these indicators and more necessitate real action at all Arab and international levels to pressure the Zionist enemy to open all crossings before the movement of personnel and goods in both directions,” the head of the NGOs network underlined.

(Source / 08.09.2013)

UK delivered Syria chemicals needed for sarin production ‘for 6 years’

 

Street signs are seen near the Houses of Parliament in London.(Reuters / Toby Melville)Street signs are seen near the Houses of Parliament in London.

British companies sold sodium fluoride, a key ingredient in the manufacture of the deadly nerve gas sarin, to a Syrian firm from 2004-2010, British media reveal, a sale that has been called ‘disturbing’ following the chemical weapons attack in Damascus.

Between July 2004 and May 2010, the British government issued five export licenses to two companies, allowing them to sell Syria sodium fluoride, necessary for the production of sarin, according to a report in the Daily Mail, a British daily.

Sarin, a nerve gas that is hundreds of times deadlier than cyanide, is considered one of the world’s most dangerous chemical warfare agents. It works on the nervous system, over-stimulating muscles and vital organs, and a single drop can be lethal in minutes. The US, France and Germany say the deadly chemical was used in the attacks of August 21 in the Damascus neighborhood of Ghouta that left hundreds of civilians dead or injured.

The Sunday Mail says UK firms did export sodium fluoride to a Syrian cosmetics firm throughout the six years for what they claim were legitimate purposes. The daily quotes British MPs admitting for the first time that the chemical was delivered to Syria which has been condemned as a ‘grossly irresponsible’ move and a clear violation of international protocol on the trade of dangerous substances.

British MPs signaled their extreme displeasure with the shocking revelations.

“These are very disturbing revelations uncovered by The Mail on Sunday regarding the provision of sodium fluoride to Syria. At no time should we have allowed President Assad’s regime to get its hands on this substance,” Thomas Docherty MP, a member of the Commons Arms Export Controls Committee, said on Saturday.

“Previously we thought that while export licenses had been granted, no chemicals were actually delivered. Now we know that in the build-up to the Syrian civil war, UK companies – with the backing of our Government – were supplying this potentially lethal substance,” he added.

 

Syrian activists inspect the bodies of people they say were killed by nerve gas in the Ghouta region, in the Duma neighbourhood of Damascus August 21, 2013 (Reuters / Bassam Khabieh) Syrian activists inspect the bodies of people they say were killed by nerve gas in the Ghouta region, in the Duma neighbourhood of Damascus August 21, 2013

While the last export license was issued in May 2010, the licenses are obtained prior to manufacture and the industry standard requires four to five months before the chemicals are delivered.

“We are looking at late 2010 for the British supplies of sodium fluoride reaching Syria,” Docherty said.

The Government has some very serious questions to answer, he concluded.

However, a spokesman for the Department of Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) defended the sale of the chemical to Syria, saying the amount was “commensurate with the stated end use in the production of cosmetics and there was no reason to link them with Syria’s chemical weapons program. This remains the case.”

The BIS refused to release the names of the two UK exporters for reasons of commercial confidentiality.

This comes on top of another sarin-related scandal as earlier British officials were found  to have granted export licenses for sodium fluoride and potassium fluoride exports to Syria on the eve of the Syrian civil conflict breakout. The January 2012 licenses were given in the knowledge that both substances “could also be used as precursor chemicals in the manufacture of chemical weapons,” according to a report published by the House of Commons Committee on Arms Export Controls.

Angus Robertson, a Scottish National Party MP, told RT that the matter was raised in the House of Commons last week following the House of Commons ruling not to participate in military action against the Syrian government.

“Defense ministers had to explain why it was that the UK would even consider granting an export license,”he said, adding that it was “impossible to tell” whether rebels could have got hold of the chemicals once they had passed into the country.

 

A Syrian army tank maneuvers in the Eastern Ghouta area on the northeastern outskirts of Damascus on August 30, 2013. (AFP Photo / Sam SKaine)A Syrian army tank maneuvers in the Eastern Ghouta area on the northeastern outskirts of Damascus on August 30, 2013.

“I’m still concerned, however, as the chemical licenses were issued at a time when the situation in Syria had already deteriorated,” Robertson added.

Meanwhile, in the US, members of Congress are debating whether to give President Barack Obama the green light for a military strike on the Syrian government of President Bashar Assad, who the White House holds responsible for last month’s deadly chemical weapons attack.

The US leader had earlier warned that the use of chemical weapons in Syria was the “red line” that, if crossed, would necessitate US involvement. The White House caveat, however, did not consider the possibility that Syrian rebel forces would jump at the opportunity of bringing US forces over to their side in the event of such an attack.

During the G20 summit, which just wrapped up in St. Petersburg, the White House released a joint statement signed by the leaders and representatives of 11 nations – ten of whom are G20 members. The signees included Australia, Canada, France, Italy, Japan, Republic of Korea, Saudi Arabia, Spain, Turkey, the United Kingdom, and the United States.

The signatory nations said they “support efforts undertaken by the United States and other countries to reinforce the prohibition on the use of chemical weapons.”

However, the signatories to the statement were clearly opposed to any military action against Syria.

“Recognizing that Syria’s conflict has no military solution, we reaffirm our commitment to seek a peaceful political settlement through full implementation of the 2012 Geneva Communique.  We are committed to a political solution which will result in a united, inclusive and democratic Syria,” it read.

Russia and China, among other nations, remain highly skeptical of claims that the Assad regime resorted to the use of chemical weapons, saying there is not enough evidence to prove with any certainty the identity of the perpetrators of the attack.

At the G20 summit, President Vladimir Putin called the chemical attack “provocation” carried out by rebels and cautioned strike supporters to act within the UN charter, and only after firm results of the UN probe are published, which may happen as soon as next week.

(Source / 08.09.2013)

Rothschild Zionist and War Criminal Tony Blair attacks Islam as ‘fundamentally extremist’ religion

 

‘In an interview with the BBC, Tony Blair lashed out at opposition Labour Party chief Ed Miliband for opposing the coalition government’s push for launching an invasion against Syria, moaning that the country “could become a potent source of extremists”.

The former head of the Labour party, who engineered the March 2003 U.S.-led invasion of Iraq together with former U.S. president George W. Bush on the pretext of Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMDs), acknowledged that the true reason western warmongers are spearheading wars in the Middle East region was fighting Islam.

There is a “fundamental battle about religion and politics within Islam, which has vast consequences for our future security”, Tony Blair claimed.’

(Source / 08.09.2013)

US and Israel Make Final Preparations for Wider War, Evacuate US Embassy in Lebanon

‘Considering Israel’s joint operating status with US military assets in the region and its horrible record of violating air space and bombing its neighbors – including Lebanon in 2006, it’s no surprise that the US State Department has suddenly ordered all “non-emergency personnel” and their family members to leave the U.S. Embassy in Beirut today, and has warned all Americans to avoid travel to Lebanon due to an undisclosed “threat” to the diplomatic mission in that country. A similar operation is also underway regarding U.S. citizens in Turkey including a draw-down of staff at the U.S. Consulate General in Adana, Turkey.

21st Century Wire believes that the US is evacuating its staff in preparation for a planned Israeli military airstrike against Lebanon, which Israel will justify via its desire to take out a series of Hezbollah “terrorist targets” inside Lebanon, including bombing targets in urban areas like south Beirut. This suspicion is evidenced by the US State Department actually naming Hezbollah, and general “anti-Western terrorist activity” in the statement.’

(Source / 08.09.2013)

Syria chemical weapons attack not ordered by Assad – report

 

ассад интервью немецкая газета сирия асад

Bashar Assad

German intelligence sources suggest that last month’s alleged chemical weapons attack in Damascus was not ordered by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, Bild am Sonntag has reported.

Forces loyal to President Assad had been asking him for four months to use chemical weapons against the rebels, but they received no approval from the Syrian leader.

Therefore, the August 21 attack “might not have been sanctioned by Assad,” the report said.

The newspaper also said, citing German intelligence, that President Assad is likely to remain in power for a long time, even if the United States does conduct military strikes on Syria.

Germany’s foreign intelligence agency (BND) could not be reached for comment, Reuters news agency said.

Bild said radio traffic was intercepted by a German naval reconnaissance vessel, the Oker, sailing close to the Syrian coast.

Last week the head of the BND, Gerhard Schindler, gave confidential briefings to the German parliament’s defence and foreign affairs committees. Bild said Schindler told the defence committee that Syria’s civil war could continue for years.

The chief of staff of Germany’s armed forces, General Volker Wieker, also told lawmakers that the influence of al-Qaida linked forces within the rebels was becoming stronger and stronger.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel repeated in an interview with Bild am Sonntag that Germany would not take part in any military intervention.

Germans are overwhelmingly opposed to military action in Syria.

US President Barack Obama recently asked the US Congress to support a limited military intervention in Syria because of the regime’s alleged use of chemical weapons, which the US claims killed over a thousand civilians in one attack on August 21.

The unrest in Syria began in March 2011 and later escalated into a civil war.

More than 100,000 people have been killed in the conflict so far, according to UN estimates.

Assad denies ordering chemical attack in Syria – CBS

Syrian President Basar al-Assad has denied in an interview with CBS television that he was behind a chemical attack in a Damascus suburb last month, the US network said Sunday. Also, Assad could not confirm or deny that his government used chemical weapons.

“He denied that he had anything to do with the attack, notwithstanding what has been said and notwithstanding the videotape. He said there’s not enough evidence to make a conclusive judgment” CBS veteran correspondent Charlie Rose said, speaking earlier after interviewing Assad in Syria.

“The most important thing, as he says, is that ‘there’s no evidence that I used chemical weapons against my own people’,” Rose said.

Assad’s rare interview with an American network is to be aired on CBS on Monday.

The United States has led the charge that Assad ordered a chemical attack against the residents of a Damascus suburb on August 21, which Washington says killed some 1,400 people including about 400 children. Graphic videos released on Saturday showed dozens of people, including children, writhing on the ground with convulsions, some apparently foaming at the mouth and vomiting as rescuers sought to help them.

But Assad challenged the US administration of President Barack Obama to provide the evidence as it seeks to build domestic and international support for military strikes against the Syrian regime for breaking international conventions with its alleged use of chemical weapons.

“He said that he did not necessarily know whether there was going to be a military strike. He said that they were obviously as prepared as they could be for a strike,” Rose added, citing his interview with Assad.

The long-time Syrian leader also “had a message to the American people that it had not been a good experience for them to get involved in the Middle East in wars and conflicts,” Rose said. “The results had not been good and they should not get involved and that they should communicate to their Congress and to their leadership in Washington not to authorize a strike.”

Congress is due to begin full debate this week on whether to approve Obama’s plans for limited military strikes on Syria aimed at degrading its chemical weapons ability when it returns from its summer break on Monday.But there is a deep skepticism among a war-weary American public over a new American military engagement in the Middle East.

Turkey scrambles warplanes after blast on Syria border

Several Turkish F-16 warplanes took off from a base in southeastern Diyarbakir after a large explosion close to the Syrian border, local media reported on Sunday.

Turkey’s Sabah newspaper reported that the warplanes were headed toward the Syrian border, according to the Bloomberg news agency.

Meanwhile, the state hospital in the border town of Reyhanli, was on alert to receive possible casualties from Syria following the explosion, Milliyet newspaper reported, adding that a missile allegedly landed near the Syrian village of Sarmade.

Earlier this week, Turkey beefed up a military presence along its southern border with Syria in anticipation of US-led strikes on the regime in Damascus, AFP news agency reported, citing local media.

A 20-vehicle convoy with a tank contingent was deployed to the border area of Yayladagi in Hatay province on Wednesday and was followed by 15 more vehicles Thursday, Turkish news agency Dogan reported.

Syria’s northwestern border with Turkey is one of the few areas on the frontier still in the hands of President Bashar al-Assad, according to the agency.

Meanwhile, state-run news agency Anatolia said an already enlarged troop presence on the southern border would also be reinforced.

Syria rebels seize Christian town Maalula

Syrian rebels have taken control of the historic Christian town of Maalula, north of Damascus, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights watchdog and residents said on Sunday.

“Overnight, Syrian regime troops moved into the village, but rebel forces sent reinforcements and were able to take control of the entire town,” said Observatory director Rami Abdel Rahman.

He said the jihadist Al-Nusra Front was among the forces that had taken control of the town.

A Maalula resident, reached by phone, also confirmed that regime forces had withdrawn from the area and rebel forces were now in control.

Speaking on condition of anonymity, the resident said the situation on the ground was quiet.

“The rebels are inside Maalula, all of Maalula. The government troops have pulled out of Maalula,” the resident said.

Abdel Rahman said “fierce fighting broke out between regime forces and rebel fighters overnight and the soldiers withdrew to the outskirts of the town”.

Maalula is considered a symbol of the Christian presence in Syria and many of its inhabitants speak Aramaic, the language spoken by Jesus Christ that only small, scattered communities around the world still use.

The battle for the town left at least 17 rebels dead and more than 100 wounded, the Observatory said, adding that dozens of regime forces and pro-militia members were also killed or wounded in the fighting.

The clashes erupted on Wednesday, when Al-Nusra Front fighters and other Islamist rebels attacked a regime checkpoint at one entrance to the town.

The advance raised fears of attacks against churches or Christians in the town and on Friday the opposition Syrian National Coalition said rebels had withdrawn from the area.

“Free Syrian Army (FSA) units on Wednesday destroyed posts at Maalula and Jabadine held by the army on the Damascus-Homs road after fierce clashes with President Bashar al-Assad’s forces and auxiliaries,” the Observatory said in a statement on Friday.

“The FSA was stationed for several hours in the vicinity, but did not attack any church or convent,” it said.

On Saturday, the Observatory said rebel forces were fighting pro-regime militias in the west of the town and was also engaged in clashes with Syrian troops on the outskirts of Maalula.

US plans for 3 days of attacks on Syria

The Pentagon is readying more intense and longer attacks on Syria than originally planned, set to last three days, the Los Angeles Times reported Sunday.

War planners now aim to unleash a heavy barrage of missile strikes to be followed swiftly by additional attacks on targets that may have been missed or remain standing after the initial launch, the Times cited officials as saying.

Two US officers told the newspaper that the White House has asked for an expanded target list to include “many more” than the initial list of around 50 targets.

The move is part of an effort to obtain additional firepower to damage Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s dispersed forces.

Pentagon planners are now considering using Air Force bombers, as well as five US missile destroyers currently patrolling the eastern Mediterranean Sea, to launch cruise missiles and air-to-surface missiles from far out of range of Syrian air defenses, according to the report.

The USS Nimitz aircraft carrier strike group with one cruiser and three destroyers positioned in the Red Sea can also launch cruise missiles at Syria.

“There will be several volleys and an assessment after each volley but all within 72 hours and a clear indication when we are done,” an officer familiar with the planning told the Times.

The intensified military planning comes as President Barack Obama prepares to personally make his case to the American people and further press reluctant lawmakers on the need for action after Assad allegedly used chemical weapons on his own people last month.

Obama is scheduled to tape interviews Monday with anchors of the three major broadcast networks, as well as with PBS, CNN and Fox News.

The interviews, to air that night, will precede Obama’s address to the nation on Tuesday ahead of an expected full Senate vote.

The president favors a limited attack with only a limited number of warplanes to drop bombs over Syria, according to the Times.

Amid doubts that a limited US offensive would sufficiently hamper Assad’s military capabilities, one officer told the newspaper that the planned operation would amount to a “show of force” over several days that would not fundamentally change the situation on the ground.

The planned US strike “will not strategically impact the current situation in the war, which the Syrians have well in hand, though fighting could go on for another two years,” another US officer said.

US may attack Syria without UN sanction

At a press conference after his meeting with France’s Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius in Paris, US Secretary of State John Kerry said that the US does not rule out interfering in the Syrian conflict with force without waiting for the UN’s report on Syria.

UN experts are now investigating an incident that took place near Damascus on August 21 and was presumed to be a chemical attack.

Mr. Kerry said that President Obama is now viewing the possible variants of his future steps and hasn’t made a final decision yet.

(Source / 08.09.2013)

Israel, Palestinians ‘remain steadfast’ on peace talks, says Kerry

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry answers a question during a news conference with Qatar Foreign Minister Khalid Al Attiya (R) at the United States Embassy in Paris, September 8, 2013.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry was to meet Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas in London on Sunday, having earlier insisted that Israelis and Palestinians were determined to pursue direct peace talks.

Kerry and Abbas, who have met regularly over the last six months, were to kick off their latest talks at 7:30 pm (2030 GMT), according to the US State Department, but no details were due to be released to the press.

The United States’ top diplomat arrived in London late afternoon following a stop-off in Paris, which was dominated by the ongoing crisis in Syria and the proposed US-Franco military response.

But Kerry also tackled the Israeli-Palestinian peace process with his Egyptian, Qatari and Saudi counterparts along with representatives from the Arab League.

“Despite tough decisions that have to be made and despite pressure that exists on both sides… both the Palestinians and Israelis have remained steadfast in their commitment to continuing the talks,” Kerry said in Paris after a meeting with Arab League officials.

Kerry also said he planned to meet Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu “shortly” to discuss peace efforts.

Enhancing regional stability

In regards to the talks with Arab League officials, Kerry said: “We all of us agreed that a final status agreement is important in enhancing regional security and stability throughout the Middle East.”

Qatari Foreign Minister Khaled al-Attiyah however criticized Israel for continuing to build Jewish settlements, saying it was damaging peace efforts.

“We are talking about the settlements, what we noticed is that each time a round of negotiations is to start it’s preceded by an announcement of settlements,” he said.

This “directly affects the negotiations,” Attiyah said.

Direct talks between Israel and the Palestinians resumed on July 29, after Kerry shuttled between Jerusalem, the West Bank and Amman for several months seeking to end a three-year stalemate in the negotiations.

The two sides have since met three times in August and in early September in Jerusalem.

In line with Kerry’s desire to keep the details of the negotiations secret in order to give the process a chance to work, little has leaked about the talks.

Ahead of the first bilateral meetings in Jerusalem on August 14, Israel announced plans to build more than 2,000 Jewish settler homes on Palestinian territory, in a move that angered Palestinian negotiators.

Kerry also urged the European Union to suspend new guidelines introduced in July forbidding its 28 member states from dealing with or funding any Israeli “entities” in the occupied Palestinian territories, including the West Bank and east Jerusalem.

Netanyahu said last month that the EU’s stance was hampering peace talks by hardening Palestinian positions.

“I did ask the European community if they would consider a suspension,” Kerry said. “It’s not asking them to change the policy, it’s asking them to suspend or delay its implementation while these talks are taking place.”

(Source / 08.09.2013)