WASHINGTON — Secretary of State John Kerry said Tuesday that he holds out hope that peace talks can be revived between the Israelis and Palestinians as he prepares to meet on Thursday with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.
“There’s always hope. There’s always hope,” Kerry said in an interview. “In the Middle East, the efforts to make peace don’t end. They take a different shape or they take a different form.”
It will be the first time Kerry has met personally with Abbas since the peace talks with Israel collapsed last month. It also comes a week after National Security Adviser Susan Rice met with top Israeli officials.
Kerry said he was not planning to make any specific offer, and he would not detail what he will ask of the Palestinian leader.
“I have not talked about it publicly, and I do not intend to talk about it publicly,” he said about the peace effort. “Except to say an enormous distance was traveled. As [former British prime minister] Tony Blair said to me today when he was here, we went further than — and narrowed differences more than — any other effort thus far.”
Both sides have refused to continue working beyond the April 29 deadline that Kerry set.
“We were working hard for nine months,” Kerry said. “Decisions have been made. I
haven’t had a chance to evaluate everybody’s thinking. And I need to do that to make our own judgments.”
One of the moves that caused talks to collapse was Abbas’s decision to form a coalition agreement with Hamas, a group that Israel and the United States consider a terrorist organization.
When asked whether talks could continue if Abbas continues to work with Hamas, Kerry said, “there has to be an acceptance” of principles that would require Hamas to take steps such as renouncing violence and recognizing Israel’s right to exist.
“Someone’s position has to change,” Kerry said. “Someone’s formula has to change.”
“We’ll sort of see where we are. We have to take stock,” he added. “I’m not going there to put anything on the table. I’m just going to have a conversation.”