We’ve been following the news reports on John Kerry’s trip to the Middle East for the past week. Today Kerry visited West Bank City of Jericho and Jerusalem, where he held a press conference.
At the press conference in Jerusalem today, John Kerry said that next week’s election for a new Palestinian parliament could mark a turning point, but he warned that participation by the militant Hamas could cause complications.
“The Palestinian Authority has an opportunity, hopefully, to set a new course for itself,” he said. “All of us are going to look forward to the results of these elections and pursue with interest the opportunities they may or may not provide.”
The first 10 years of Palestinian rule have been marked by inefficiency, corruption and disorder, worsened by the last five years of violence with Israel. As a result, many Palestinian voters are turning away from the Fatah party of leader Mahmoud Abbas and switching to Hamas, the Islamic movement responsible for dozens of suicide bombings that have killed hundreds of Israelis.
Kerry warned that Hamas participation could upset relations with the U.S., but it would depend on Hamas actions. “The real question is what will happen afterward,” the Massachusetts Democrat said.
If Hamas becomes part of the government, it needs to stop armed attacks, he said, and he would not support a Palestinian government if its members engaged in violence.
“You can’t have it both ways,” he said. If you are running a government, “you can’t at the same time be blowing up buses.”
If Hamas continues to use violence while part of a government, he said, the Palestinian Authority should not receive funding from the U.S.
He also said he believes Russia will realize soon that it should join the U.S. and Britain in voting to bring the issue of Iran’s nuclear program to the U.N. Security Council.
“It’s my hope it doesn’t take pressure to get Russia to do what it needs to do,” he said.
Israel’s acting prime minister, Ehud Olmert, said Tuesday that Israel is working in concert with the United States and other powers to prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons.
Photos from Jerusalem and the West Bank City of Jericho:
John Kerry meets interim Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert in Jerusalem. (picture released by the Israeli Government Press Office)
John Kerry speaks to the media during his meeting with Senior Palestinian official Saeb Erekat in the West Bank city of Jericho.
John Kerry and Senior Palestinian official Saeb Erekat in the West Bank city of Jericho.
Kerry is scheduled to visit Iraq on Wednesday and Thursday where he will meet with U.S troops, General Casey and receive intelligence and security briefings from U.S. officials. There are more details here.
Related Posts from Kerry’s trip to the Middle East:
— Interview with John Kerry from Rediff.com
— John Kerry Tours Quake Ravaged Region of Pakistan, Distributing School Uniforms for Children
— John Kerry Signals Change Needed for Pakistan Nuclear Deal
— John Kerry Lauds Free Power for Farmers in India
— John Kerry Says Iran Making “Dangerous” Nuclear Choice
— John Kerry Voices Support (in Principle) for Indo-US Nuclear Agreement
— John Kerry in India for Nuke Talks, Weeks Ahead of Bush
— John Kerry’s Trip to the Mid East Focuses on War in Iraq, War on Terror, Global Health Crises, America’s Competitiveness in the Global Economy