As Middle East peace talks descended into crisis mode today, Secretary of State John Kerry sought to make clear that they are still ongoing — at least for now.
“It is completely premature tonight to draw any kind of judgment, any kind of final judgment, about today’s events and where things are,” he told reporters at the NATO summit in Brussels, Belgium.
But he also warned that extending the negotiations will not happen if the Israelis and Palestinians don’t exhibit their desire to keep them going.
“Facilitation is only as good as the willingness of leaders to make actions to put in front of them,” he said.
Even as Kerry cancelled his own trip back to the Middle East, which was supposed to happen Wednesday, he said he was continuing to talk with his negotiating partners on the ground there.
But he urged both the Israelis and Palestinians, who have made moves that drew ire from both sides over the past few days, to show restraint.
Kerry also responded to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’s defiant announcement Tuesday that he was applying to join at least fifteen international organizations — an effort to align the Palestinians with the international community that Israel is wary of.
Seeking to find the silver lining in that move, Kerry underscored that none of the organizations Abbas is now seeking to join are affiliated with the United Nations, which Israel has said would blow up the talks.
Kerry also emphasized how much political capital the Obama administration has expended on these talks, noting that President Barack Obama “has committed his personal time… he has committed my time.”
But, he said, the United States is willing to continue negotiations as long as the Israelis and Palestinians are.
“We’re going to continue to do our work. We’re going to continue because this matters,” he said.