John Kerry reaffirms commitment to Mideast peace

Updated: 2013-02-04 09:46


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WASHINGTON - New US Secretary of State John Kerry on Sunday reaffirmed his commitment to pursuing peace between the Israelis and the Palestinians.

The top American diplomat, who was sworn in on Friday to succeed Hillary Clinton, made a number of phone calls over the weekend to foreign dignitaries including Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, the State Department said.

"Turning to Middle East peace, the secretary underscored his personal commitment and that of President Obama to support Israel's security and to pursue a lasting peace between Israelis and Palestinians," State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said in a statement.

Netanyahu, who was asked on Saturday by Israeli President Shimon Peres to form a new government following the January 22 elections, said that one of the top issues his government will tackle is renewing the peace process with the Palestinians.

And Kerry will travel to Israel in two weeks, the CNN TV network reported, citing a US official.

In his phone conversation with Netanyahu, Kerry "commended" Israel's decision to release frozen tax revenues to the Palestinian National Authority as "an important step," Nuland said.

Israel withheld the tax revenues it collected for the Palestinians in retaliation against their resort to the UN General Assembly in November last year for an elected status.

In his call to Abbas on Sunday, Kerry reiterated his personal commitment to peacemaking and promised to work with Congress to release budget support funds for the Palestinian National Authority.

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

Kerry's weekend calls also went to his counterparts from Turkey, Canada, Mexico, Japan and the Republic of Korea, the State Department said.