WASHINGTON: U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry will visit Europe and the Middle East from Wednesday to Sunday for talks on a recent spate of Israeli-Palestinian violence as well as the Syrian civil war, the State Department said.
In announcing the trip, State Department spokesman John Kirby was unable on Tuesday to say exactly when and where Kerry planned to hold separate meetings with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.
Earlier on Tuesday, Kerry held out the possibility he might meet Netanyahu in the Middle East rather than in Germany as previously planned. U.S. officials have said he was likely to meet Abbas, as well as Jordan’s King Abdullah, in Amman.
His talks aim to reduce three weeks of violence that began with a string of stabbing attacks on Israelis in Jerusalem.
One reason given by Palestinians for the violence is anger over perceived Jewish encroachment on Jerusalem’s al-Aqsa mosque, Islam’s third holiest shrine, also revered by Jews as the site of two destroyed biblical temples.
Palestinians are fuming at what they see as increased Jewish visits to the al-Aqsa plaza, where non-Muslim prayer has been banned for centuries. Israel insists it has made no changes to the rules at the site.
Speaking at his daily briefing, Kirby also could not provide the venue or timing for the talks on the Syrian civil war, which has intensified with Russia’s military intervention last month to support the Damascus government against insurgents.
He said Kerry would likely meet the foreign ministers of Russia, Saudi Arabia and Turkey to discuss the issue.