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Israel PM to meet Kerry in Rome on Palestinians

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Jerusalem: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will meet US Secretary of State John Kerry on Sunday in Rome to discuss stalled peace efforts with the Palestinians, US and Israeli officials said.

An Israeli official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Netanyahu and Kerry would tackle “issues relating to security and peace.”

US State Department spokesman John Kirby said several issues would be on the agenda, but observers have noted that the meeting comes ahead of a report by the Quartet on the peace process.

This diplomatic contact group — the United Nations, the European Union, the United States and Russia — is expected to be critical of Israeli policies in the occupied West Bank.

“There are plenty of issues coming up that merit Israel and the United States’ discussion,” Kirby said, citing regional counter-terrorism efforts and the crisis in Syria.

“The Quartet is preparing a report on the situation of the ground. It will include recommendations that will help inform international discussions on the best way to advance a two-state solution.”

Kirby said the report would “largely” reflect the Quartet’s previous statement in September last year.

This, among other concerns, cited Israel’s “ongoing settlement activity and the high rate of demolition of Palestinian structures” as “dangerously imperiling the viability” of a two-state — one Israeli and one Palestinian — solution.

Netanyahu recently spoke over the phone with EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini.

And on Tuesday he called Russian President Vladimir Putin and discussed “key aspects of the Palestinian-Israeli peace process,” according to a Russian statement.

The Israeli premier will also meet UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon in Jerusalem on Monday. The UN chief will be in Israel and the Palestinian territories as part of a Middle East tour.

On Monday, EU foreign ministers backed a French initiative to organise an international conference on the Middle East, aimed at restarting Israeli-Palestinian peace talks deadlocked since 2014.

The European Union has been pressing hard to get the peace process back on track based on a two-state solution.

Netanyahu is opposed to the French initiative and has described it as an “international diktat” that should not come in the place of direct talks with Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas.

The Palestinians support the international community’s involvement, saying that years of talks with Israel have not yielded their desired results.

A statement from Netanyahu’s office said the premier would also be meeting with Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi during his visit to Rome.

Agence France-Presse

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