U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry has reportedly told Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas that he intends to attend the preliminary foreign ministers’ meeting that France is convening in advance of a French-sponsored Middle East peace conference. The report of Kerry’s plans came in comments to Haaretz by Palestine Liberation Organization’s Saeb Erekat.
At this stage, however, State Department officials will not confirm that Kerry will be attending the foreign ministers’ meeting, which is scheduled in Paris on May 30. For his part, Erekat said that Kerry and Abbas spoke by phone three days ago and Kerry made clear his intention to attend the foreign ministers’ meeting.
Until now, Kerry hasn’t announced whether he’ll attend the summit, and made no public statement on his stance about the event, which Jerusalem opposes. In his daily briefing for reporters, State Department spokesman John Kirby said no final decision has been made on Kerry’s attendance and that the Americans had informed the French that Kerry was not available on May 30. Kirby acknowledged for the first time that contacts have been underway between the United States and the French over whether the foreign ministers might meet on another date, enabling Kerry to attend.
The foreign ministers’ meeting will occur without the participation of Israeli and Palestinian representatives, ahead of the main international peace conference that France hopes to hold in Paris over the summer.
The State Department has announced that Kerry would be in Cairo on Wednesday on a previously unplanned visit and would meet there with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sissi. It can be assumed that the French peace initiative will be the main subject that the two discuss.
In a related development, President Abbas met on Monday with French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault at the Palestinian Authority headquarters in Ramallah and heard from the French minister about the Israeli stance and particularly that of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu regarding the French-sponsored Middle East conference. For his part, President Abbas expressed support for the French effort and declared his intention to provide the French with assistance in this regard.