April 4 - U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry says it's time for a ''reality check'' in the Middle East peace talks and that the U.S. will be evaluating what the next steps will be. Rough Cut (no reporter narration).
ROUGH CUT (NO REPORTER NARRATION) U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said on Friday (April 4) that Washington was evaluating whether to continue its role in Middle East peace talks, signaling his patience with the Israelis and Palestinians was running out. Speaking during a visit to Morocco after a week of setbacks, Kerry said there was a limit to U.S. efforts if the parties themselves were unwilling to move forward. "There are limits to the amount of time and effort that the United States can spend if the parties themselves are unwilling to take constructive steps in order to be able to move forward," he said. "So we intend to evaluate - they say they want to continue, both parties say they want to continue - neither party have said that they've called it off but we're not going to sit there indefinitely," Kerry said, making his bleakest assessment yet of talks that he has dedicated a huge amount of energy to. U.S. officials say Kerry had been blindsided by recent Israeli and Palestinian moves that had compromised undertakings made when they launched the latest round of talks aimed at ending their enduring conflict last July. The negotiations were catapulted into crisis at the weekend when Israel refused to act on a previously agreed release of Palestinian prisoners unless it had assurances the Palestinians would continue talks beyond an initial end-April deadline. Kerry flew to Jerusalem to try to find a solution. Just when he believed a convoluted deal was within reach, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas signed 15 international treaties, making clear he was ready to beat a unilateral path to world bodies unless he saw more movement from the Israelis. A senior Palestinian official, Nabil Shaath, told Reuters that Abbas had not intended to upset Kerry, but rather to shine a spotlight on Israel's failure to release the prisoners. At Friday's news conference in Rabat, Kerry stressed that there was in fact a time limit to be taken into consideration. "This is not an open-ended effort, it never has been - the president said that from the beginning and I've said that many times, including in the last few days - so it's reality check time and we intend to evaluate precisely what the next steps will be," he said. With both sides looking to blame the other for the impasse, Israel's centrist finance minister, Yair Lapid, said he questioned whether Abbas wanted a deal, pointing to a lengthy list of Palestinian demands published on Maan news agency. These included lifting a blockade on the Gaza Strip, and freeing a group of high profile prisoners, including Marwan Barghouti, jailed a decade ago over a spate of suicide bombings.