by Staff Writers
United Nations, United States / United States (AFP) July 25, 2013
US Secretary of State John Kerry appeared to have flubbed his lines on Thursday when he referred to the Palestinian territories as a country.
Speaking at the United Nations ahead of talks with UN chief Ban Ki-moon, Kerry praised the "courageous decision" by Israeli and Palestinian leaders to try to resume direct negotiations.
"It's my hope that that will be able to happen as procedures are put in place by both countries in order to empower that," Kerry told reporters.
The final status of the Palestinian territories has yet to be determined, although the US goal is two states -- one Israeli and one Palestinian -- living side by side.
State Department deputy spokeswoman Marie Harf assured reporters later that US policy had not changed.
"Our position has not changed not on the status of the Palestinian territory. The secretary was in no way indicating a change of policy," she said.
Later asked about his comment, Kerry replied: "Did I say that?"
Last week, Kerry appeared to have achieved a breakthrough deal to get the two sides to return to the negotiating table after a three-year break.
No date has yet been set, although an Israeli minister said that the talks would begin on Tuesday in Washington.
Mideast talks could resume July 30: Israeli minister
"We hope talks will begin next week, possibly on Tuesday, but this hasn't been decided 100 percent," he told a news conference in the West Bank city of Jericho at the inauguration of an industrial park.
"If there's no change at the last minute... I think there's a good chance talks can resume next week in Washington," he said.
Separately quoted by public radio, Shalom said he did not imagine a "scenario where the Palestinians refuse to restart talks. That would be an affront to US Secretary of State John Kerry".
Palestinian presidential spokesman Nabil Abu Rudeina said his side was still awaiting a formal invitation from the US.
"We are ready to go to Washington and are committed to what was agreed on with Secretary Kerry," he told AFP.
"We are waiting for the invitation for our delegation to go to Washington."
Kerry announced last week that Israel and the Palestinians would begin negotiating in Washington, after a three-year halt in direct peace talks.
On Monday, the White House said that preliminary talks between Palestinian chief negotiator Saeb Erakat and his counterpart, Israeli Justice Minister Tzipi Livni, could begin in the next few weeks.
It expressed "cautious optimism" over the chances of their success.
Israeli public radio, meanwhile, said Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was to "urgently" ask his government on Sunday to approve a draft bill that would require a referendum on a future peace deal with the Palestinians.
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