Kerry, Abbas discuss de-escalation of tensions

US Secretary of State John Kerry meets Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in Jordan to discuss decrease of violence between Israelis and Palestinians

Photo by: Reuters
Photo by: Reuters

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas meets with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry at Abbas' residence in Amman, Jordan February 21, 2016.

US Secretary of State John Kerry urged calm in talks on Sunday with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas on tensions between Israelis and Palestinians in the occupied West Bank and Jerusalem, and reaffirmed the US commitment to a two-state solution to the conflict.

"The Secretary continued to urge for calm and a decrease in violence, incitement and inflammatory rhetoric," State Department spokesman John Kirby said in a statement after the meeting during a visit to Jordan by the top US diplomat.

The talks included discussions of tensions at the Al Aqsa Mosque compound, one of the holiest places in Islam.

The site is also sacred for Jews, who call it the Temple Mount, as they believe it is the location of the Temple of Solomon, which was destroyed by the Babylonians over 2,500 years ago.

Archeological excavations near the site have alarmed Palestinians, who complain tunnels being dug underneath the compound are intentionally destabilising the mosque and causing irreparable damage.  

Recent incidents of trespassing by Jewish settlers accompanied by Israeli forces on the compound and their alleged attempt to alter the religious status quo at the site have fueled months of heightened violence.

Since October, Israeli security forces have killed at least 168 Palestinians, 111 of whom Israel says were assailants, while most others were fatally shot during violent anti-Israeli protests.

Most of the Palestinians killed have been teenagers as young as 12 - some of whom were killed by Israeli forces, and others by armed Israeli civilians.

Palestinians insist that many of the alleged Palestinian attackers killed by Israelis were falsely accused.

Meanwhile, stabbings, shootings and car rammings by Palestinians have killed 28 Israelis.

Palestinian leaders say many Palestinian attackers have acted out of desperation in the absence of movement toward creation of an independent state. Israel says they are being incited to violence by their leaders and on social media.

Peace talks collapsed in April 2014 and since then the situation has deteriorated, with the prospects of fresh dialogue, appearing more remote than ever.

Kerry stressed the US commitment to seeking a sustainable two-state solution and working with all parties to that end. He reiterated the US policy on the illegitimacy of Israeli settlements.

TRTWorld and agencies