Newspaper article International New York Times

Kerry to Press for Outline of Mideast Peace Accord

Newspaper article International New York Times

Kerry to Press for Outline of Mideast Peace Accord

Article excerpt

What the secretary of state calls a critical first step to a comprehensive Middle East peace agreement, critics are branding as an effort to play for time.

In an intensifying diplomatic effort, Secretary of State John Kerry is making a major push to secure what Obama administration officials are calling a "framework" accord that would be a critical first step to a comprehensive Middle East peace agreement. But critics are already branding it as an effort to play for time.

Mr. Kerry was to leave Wednesday and arrive Thursday in Jerusalem, on the first of what are expected to be repeated trips to the region in January and February. His goal is to secure the framework agreement quickly, before his target of the end of April for completing a comprehensive peace treaty.

The framework document is aimed at achieving enough of a convergence on core issues that the two sides can make headway toward a formal peace agreement leading to an independent Palestinian state. It is expected to be short, perhaps fewer than a dozen pages and without detailed annexes. It would not be signed by Israeli and Palestinian leaders and would most likely take note of reservations the two sides have about some elements, American officials said.

American officials were nonetheless hopeful that it will provide some impetus to the fraught talks.

The core issues to be resolved include the borders between Israel and a future Palestinian state, the status of Jerusalem as a possible capital for the new state as well as Israel, Israel's insistence that its identity as a Jewish state be recognized and the Palestinians' demand that refugees should have the right to return to their former homes. Another issue will be determining security arrangements in the West Bank, including what role Israeli forces might have in the Jordan Valley.

The Israeli government will delay an expected announcement of bids for new settlement construction for the next few days while Mr. Kerry is in the region, an Israeli official said Wednesday, avoiding a potential high-profile clash over the contentious issue.

"We will respect John Kerry and not act to spite him," the Israeli official said, adding that there was an understanding between the office of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the Housing Ministry that no bids would be published until Mr. …

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