US Secretary of State John Kerry has met Mahmoud Abbas and says the Palestinian President is fully committed to peace talks.
His comments fly in the face of Israeli claims that the Palestinians are blocking progress.
Kerry also dismissed Israeli suggestions that there had been an understanding with the Palestinians about settlement expansion.
“We consider now and have always considered the settlements to be illegitimate,” Kerry said in Bethlehem. “And I want to make it extremely clear that at no time did the Palestinians in any way agree as a matter of going back to the talks that they somehow condone or accept the settlements.”
Earlier, a grim picture of the US-brokered talks, revived in July after a three year deadlock, was painted by Israel’s Benjamin Netanyahu.
“I’m concerned about their progress because I see the Palestinians continuing with incitement, continuing to create artificial crises, continuing to avoid and run away from the historic decisions that are needed to make a genuine peace,” he said, after talks with Kerry in Jerusalem.
The US Secretary of State has, however, expressed confidence that progress can be made.
Palestinians have warned of a crisis if Israel continues to claim that they agreed to turn a blind eye to new settler homes, in exchange for the progressive release of over 100 long-serving prisoners.
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