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Secretary of State John Kerry pushes Turkey-Israel rapprochement
Question of the Day
“It was our feeling, in a constructive way, that we thought that the timing of it is really critical with respect to the peace process that we are trying to get off the ground. We would like to see the parties begin with as little outside distraction as possible.”
With Mr. Abbas, Mr. Kerry was talking about ways to improve the Palestinians’ living conditions as a confidence-building measure to improve the atmosphere for a resumption in stalled peace talks with Israel.
Mr. Kerry has said he fears there is only a two- or three-year window of opportunity to reach a deal on a two-state solution that would end the decades-old Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and he wants to move as quickly as possible. He has met with Mr. Abbas and Mr. Netanyahu several times already to that end since becoming secretary of state.
Mr. Kerry was in Istanbul primarily to attend an international conference on Syria that began on Saturday and stretched into early Sunday as participants debated how best to boost aid to rebels trying to topple Syrian President Bashar Assad’s government.
At the conference, he announced that the Obama administration would double its nonlethal assistance to the Syrian opposition with an additional $123 million in supplies that could include for the first time armored vehicles, body armor, night vision goggles and other defensive military supplies.
“I can’t tell you how quickly it will change things on the ground,” Mr. Kerry said Sunday. “I can promise you that as soon as I return to Washington, I am going to press as hard as I can” to get it to the opposition within a matter of weeks.
“This has to happen quickly; it has to have an impact,” he added.
The additional aid, which brings total nonlethal U.S. assistance to the opposition to $250 million since the fighting began more than two years ago, “underscores the United States’ firm support for a political solution to the crisis in Syria and for the opposition’s advancement of an inclusive, tolerant vision for a post-Assad Syria,” Mr. Kerry said.
The U.S. pledge was the only tangible, public offer of new international support at the meeting of the foreign ministers of the 11 main countries supporting the opposition and fell well short of what the opposition has been appealing for: weapons and direct military intervention to stop the violence that has killed more than 70,000 people.
The Syrian National Coalition is seeking drone strikes on sites from which the regime has fired missiles, the imposition of no-fly zones and protected humanitarian corridors to ensure the safety of civilians.
While pleased with the U.S. moves, the opposition appeared deeply disappointed, especially as it lost some ground in the latest clashes with Syrian troops backed by pro-government gunmen capturing at least one village in a strategic area near the Lebanese border.
With the exception of the United States, none of the participants offered new assistance, although European nations are considering changes to an arms embargo that would allow weapons transfers to the Syrian opposition.
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