Kerry in Ramallah: US Committed to Palestinian Statehood

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(AFP) — U.S. Secretary of State Kerry expressed sympathy Tuesday for the Palestinians’ “very dire” situation, but also spoke of his concern “about the violence,” while stressing the ongoing US commitment to a Palestinian state.

“I am here at the request of President Obama to see what we can do to try to help contribute to calm and to restore people’s confidence in the ability of a two-state solution to still be viable, to be achieved at some point,” Kerry said in brief remarks after meeting Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas in Ramallah.

“We are committed to that two states with two peoples living side by side,” he said. “The United States will continue to work as hard as possible to achieve that end.”

Kerry met earlier Tuesday with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who told him that at Israel would only implement trust-building measures with the Palestinians when the violence against Israelis abates entirely, according to a senior Israeli official.

During their meeting in Jerusalem, Netanyahu said Israel would only agree to take steps to improve the security and economic situation for Palestinians in the West Bank when calm is fully restored, according to the official.

There is no settlement freeze, nor will there be one, Netanyahu continued, according to the senior official. If the international community wants Israel to okay building plans for Palestinians, it should recognize Israel’s construction in the settlement blocs, the prime minister also reportedly declared.

Netanyahu told Kerry that the core problem driving the terror attacks is “religious incitement” by the Palestinian Authority spread via social media, especially surrounding the Temple Mount, according to the official. “The PA participates in the incitement,” Netanyahu is said to have told Kerry.

Raphael Ahren and Joshua Davidovich contributed to this report