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Entries in John Kerry (16)

Friday
May242013

Kerry Tries Reviving Israeli-Palestinian Talks

Matty Ster/U.S. Embassy Tel Aviv via Getty Images(JERUSALEM) -- The U.S. and Great Britain are making a new push to restart peace talks between the Israelis and Palestinians that have gone nowhere for the past five years.

Secretary of State John Kerry and his British counterpart, Foreign Secretary William Hague, held talks Thursday with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem and President Mahmoud Abbas in Ramallah.

Kerry acknowledged the daunting task that lies ahead in getting the two sides to bend after so much intransigence, telling reporters, "I know this region well enough to know that there is skepticism. In some quarters there is cynicism and there are reasons for it. There have been bitter years of disappointment."

Still, the top U.S. envoy is holding out hope that the Israelis and Palestinians will head back to the bargaining table to work out a deal guaranteeing a separate Palestinian state and more security for Israel.

The major obstacle remains the building of Jewish settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. Abbas wants them stopped before he'll resume talks with Netanyahu while the prime minister says he'll only consider halting construction once peace discussions get underway.

In spite of the long odds, Netanyahu expressed confidence that talks can happen, adding, "Where there is a will, we will find a way."

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

Thursday
May232013

Kerry Pushing Al-Assad to Find Peace in Syria 

SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images(AMMAN, Jordan) -- Secretary Of State John Kerry is sending a message to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad: either find a peaceful solution to the two-year civil war or be prepared to deal with the international community boosting aid to the foes of his regime.

Speaking ahead of the 11-nation "Friends of Syria" conference in Amman, Jordan Wednesday, the top U.S. envoy urged al-Assad, who has vowed not to surrender, to make "a commitment to find peace in his country."

Otherwise, Kerry warned that Washington and its allies will have no choice but to increase assistance to the Syrian opposition, which has thus far not included any weaponry.

Last week, Kerry and his Russian counterpart announced that the two nations would spearhead a conference in Geneva set for early June "to end the bloodshed which has cost tens of thousands of lives."

The plan is to involve both sides in the Syrian conflict as well as other members of the international community, although neither al-Assad nor Syrian rebels have committed to sending representatives to the summit.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

Saturday
Apr272013

Family of Marine Held Prisoner in Iran Asks Secretary of State for Help

ABC News(WASHINGTON) -- The family of a U-S marine who has been held captive for nearly two years in Iran is calling for Secretary of State John Kerry to get involved.

Amir Hekmati, 29, has been languishing in an Iranian prison since August of 2011 when he traveled to the country to visit his grandmother. He was arrested by Iranian authorities and accused of being a spy.

In January of 2012 Hekmati was sentenced to death, but that was overturned, though he remains in custody.

Hekmati’s family has made numerous attempts to free him.

“We've really tried appealing with letters to members of the judiciary, to the Supreme Leader, to the president of Iran,” Hekmati’s sister explained to a reporter on Friday.

Now, the family is reaching out to the secretary of state for help.

Patrick Ventrell, State Department spokesman, responded to their appeal on Friday, saying that freeing Hekmati is a top priority and that they're continuing to reach a diplomatic solution, according to the Washington Post.

The family wants to see Hekmati returned home safely, and soon. Hekmati’s mother says her husband is growing older and is very worried about their son.

“[He] always said, ‘I want to see him before I go.’” Hekmati’s mother told reporters.

They are hoping that the father’s failing health may help their case.

“Our hope is that Iran, with their tendency to respect the eldest son's role in the family, to return home and take care of what their father cannot provide in case of death or illness, that they would find a way to release him out of humanitarian cause,” Hekmati’s brother-in-law explained.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

Sunday
Apr142013

Kerry on NKorea: US Would Not Rule Out Talks, but only if Denuclearization Steps Taken

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Secretary of State John Kerry arrived in Tokyo Sunday for the last leg of his Asia trip, reiterating the Obama Administration's pledge to seek a "peaceful resolution" on the Korean peninsula, amid increasing unease about North Korean provocations in the region.

Meeting with Japanese Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida, Kerry said the U.S. would not rule out direct talks with North Korea, but would only consider it if Pyongyang took steps towards denuclearization, and agreed to negotiate in a "responsible way."

"I think it's really unfortunate that the media and others have been so focused on the possibility of war when there's a possibility of peace," Kerry said. "We can find a way to resolve these differences at the negotiating table."

Kerry's visit to Japan comes as Pyongyang ramps up its rhetoric towards Tokyo.

On Friday, the regime singled out Japan as the first target in the event of a war on the Korean peninsula, in a scathing commentary that raised concerns in a country without a combat military, but Self Defense forces.

On Sunday, Kishida said Japan was fully prepared against such contingencies, including a potential missile launch, but added that Tokyo would push forward with a "dialogue and pressure" policy.

"We must not be influenced by [these provocations]," Kishida said. "Instead we have to get North Korea to understand that such behavior will not benefit anybody whatsoever."

Fresh off meetings with Chinese President Xi Jinping and Premier Li Keqiang, Kerry once again expressed confidence in Beijing's willingness to pressure North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, and calm tensions on the peninsula.

In a joint statement Saturday, both Kerry and Chinese State Councilor Yang Jiechi reaffirmed U.S. and China's commitment to work on the denuclearization of North Korea.

Yang said China was committed to restarting stalled six-party talks and holding North Korea accountable to its international agreements.

"What happened yesterday should not be underestimated and it is not a small event," Kerry said. "What you have is a China that made it very clear that we can't simply have a rhetorical policy. I agree with China. Question is, what steps do you take to make sure we don't repeat the cycles of the last year."

In North Korea, festivities continued for the upcoming 101th birthday celebration of founder Kim Il Sung Monday, with Pyongyang hosting an international marathon. But threats toward the outside world remained persistent denouncing South Korean President Park Geun-hye's offer of dialogue as a "cunning ploy" and an "empty shell."

"It is a cunning ploy to hide the South's confrontational policy towards the North and escape from its responsibility for putting Kaesong Industrial Complex into a crisis," an announcer read on North Korea's Central TV.

The statement came from the Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of Korea, in charge of handling relations with South Korea.

Kaesong Industrial Complex, a joint economic project using South Korean capital investment and the North's cheap labor, was recently shut down after North Korea pulled out its 53,000 workers in light of a series of tension building measures in the past few weeks.

Pyongyang has strongly protested the ongoing U.S.-South Korea military exercises scheduled to wrap up at the end of this month.

Eager to defuse tensions on the Korean peninsula, President Park offered peace through dialogue on Thursday, a surprise move that was widely welcomed by Kerry, who has repeatedly extended his support for bilateral talks, adding any missile launch would be a "huge mistake."

"I think she's shown great courage in her willingness to take [talks] in that direction, provided she has a willing partner," Kerry said in Tokyo.

Analysts have speculated that North Korea may launch a mid-range Musudan missile sometime before the April 15 celebration.

But on Sunday, South Korean local media questioned why the North's young leader Kim Jong-Un has not been seen in public over the past two weeks.

That's prompted further speculations his absence may be a sign he "might be tempted to tone down fiery threats," though others say it may be a sign Kim is posturing for the launch.

His last public appearance was on April 1, at the annual rubber-stamp parliamentary meeting. Kim is widely expected to show up in the military parade in Pyongyang on Monday.

 

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

Monday
Mar252013

Kerry Urges Iraqis to Stop Iranian Aid to Syria

Official White House Photo by Pete Souza(WASHINGTON) -- Secretary of State John Kerry made his first visit to Iraq on Sunday as America's top envoy in an effort to convince leaders there that they must stop Iran from using Iraqi airspace to transport military assistance to Syria.

Washington has been specific with Baghdad that such allowances should cease. Yet despite assurances from Iraq, the transfer of Iranian arms and fighters continues with Baghdad apparently looking the other way.

Kerry's message to Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki is that the over flights must end, or at least, Iranian cargo needs to be examined before it is allowed to continue to Syria.

The U.S. government isn't buying the excuse that Iranian planes are only carrying "humanitarian" aid to Damascus. Tehran remains one of President Bashar al-Assad's few allies in the region.

Kerry's unannounced trip was also intended as an appeal to the Shiite government to stop marginalizing the Sunni majority.

The Shiites now wield most of the power in Iraq with both Sunnis and Kurds accusing al-Maliki of cutting them out of important decisions to determine Iraq's progress forward.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
Mar062013

John Kerry Critiques Dennis Rodman Diplomacy

SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Secretary of State John Kerry on Tuesday offered his assessment of Dennis Rodman’s diplomatic skills in the wake of the former NBA star's controversial visit to North Korea, where he called leader Kim Jong Un an “awesome guy.”

Kerry told NBC News, “Dennis Rodman was a great basketball player.  And as a diplomat, he is a great basketball player.  And that’s where we’ll leave it.”

Rodman traveled to North Korea last week with the Harlem Globetrotters.

The White House denounced the trip as a “celebrity sporting event” for a repressive regime.  A White House spokesman said North Korea instead should focus on the well-being of its own people, “who have been starved, imprisoned and denied their human rights.”

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

Saturday
Mar022013

Kerry to Encourage Consensus in Egypt

Photo by Brendan Smialowski/Getty Images(CAIRO) -- U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry arrived in Egypt on Saturday and urged political leaders to come to a political consensus.

Kerry is on his first overseas trip since being named secretary of state. The trip will take Kerry to 11 countries in Europe and the Middle East, according to the BBC.

Kerry's Egypt visit comes before the upcoming parliamentary elections that opposition leaders say favor allies of current Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi. The main opposition group has planned a boycott of the elections.

According to the BBC, Kerry will speak with Morsi and other senior government officials during his two days in Egypt. Kerry also plans on meeting with some of the opposition leaders, however some have thus far refused to attend.

Egypt remains divided between the ruling Muslim Brotherhood and the more secular challengers.

Egypt has been the site of continuing protests against the ruling party since the revolution that forced former President Hosni Mubarak from power.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

Thursday
Feb282013

US to Send Direct Aid to Syrian Rebels

Scott Peterson/Getty Images(ROME) -- For the first time, the United States will provide direct support to Syrian rebel fighters, Secretary of State John Kerry announced on Thursday.

"I am proud to announce that the United States of America will be providing an additional $60 million immediately in non-lethal assistance to support the coalition," Kerry, who was in Rome meeting with leaders of Syria’s opposition council, said.

The U.S. has already provided about $50 million of non-lethal assistance to Syria’s political opposition, including providing communications equipment like radios and computers to advocates and political opposition councils.

The new aid will consist of more non-lethal supplies, like food and medicine.  It will be given to fighters who have been carefully vetted to have no ties to terrorist groups, such as al Qaeda.

"This funding will allow the opposition to reach out and help the local councils to be able to rebuild in their liberated areas of Syria," Kerry said.

Ahead of his announcement Thursday, Kerry acknowledged that the Syrian opposition needs more help.

Speaking in Paris on Wednesday, Kerry said the United States still believes that a political solution is the best way to end the bloodshed, but after two years of conflict it’s clear that the process needs to be sped up.

“That may require us to change President Assad’s current calculation.  He needs to know that he can’t shoot his way out of this,” he said.  “We need to convince him of that, and I think the opposition needs more help in order to be able to do that.  And we are working together to have a united position with respect to that.”

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
Feb272013

Obama Administration Expected to Directly Aid Syria’s Rebels

Scott Peterson/Getty Images(ROME) -- Secretary of State John Kerry will meet on Thursday with leaders of Syria’s opposition council and other nations that have been supporting the opposition at the Friends of Syria meeting in Rome. The outcome of that meeting is expected to move the United States towards more direct involvement in the nation’s conflict.

Kerry is expected to announce for the first time that the Obama administration is prepared to provide direct support to vetted members of the Free Syrian Army, the military wing of the opposition effort.

On Wednesday in Paris, Kerry acknowledged that the Syrian opposition needs more help. Kerry said the United States still believes that a political solution is the best way to end the bloodshed, but after two years of conflict it’s clear that the process needs to be sped up.

“That may require us to change President Assad’s current calculation.  He needs to know that he can’t shoot his way out of this,” said Kerry.  “We need to convince him of that, and I think the opposition needs more help in order to be able to do that.  And we are working together to have a united position with respect to that.”

U.S. officials confirmed to ABC News that the United States is considering providing “non-lethal” help to selective rebel fighters that will include communications equipment, medical and other supplies. Under the U.S. legal definition of non-lethal assistance, any aid that is not weaponry or ammunition qualifies. That means the U.S. could also provide body armor, military training, armored vehicles and help with intelligence.

“What you’re doing is you’re giving them the capability to manage their force without giving them the weapons,” former Gen. James Cartwright told ABC News.

The United States has been providing about $50 million of non-lethal assistance to Syria’s political opposition, including providing communications equipment like radios and computers to advocates and political opposition councils.

Republican Sen. Marco Rubio said on Wednesday at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy that he thinks the United States should go further, providing ammunition for the rebel fighters. Rubio’s comments followed his recent trip to the region, where he met with the former prime minister of Syria who defected to Jordan last August.

“There are plenty of weapons in Syria. What the opposition really needs is access to ammunition,” he said. “Ammunition is something we can provide that is not weaponry per se, but is essential. That’s the stuff I’m prepared to advocate for.”

But providing weapons and ammunition to Syria’s rebel army comes with risks. Extremist elements of the opposition, including groups with ties to al Qaeda in Iraq, have emerged in the conflict. More than 50 people, many of them women and children, were killed last week in a terror attack in Damascus, Syria, carried out by a suicide bomber.

Kerry acknowledged during his Paris news conference that extremist elements within the opposition have filled what Syrians perceive as a vacuum of assistance from the U.S. and its allies.

“Some folks on the ground that we don’t support and whose interests do not align with ours are delivering some of that help,” said Kerry.

He told reporters that the United States needs to address the problem by helping Syria’s opposition do a better job to meet the needs of the Syrian people in areas they control.

“We need to help them to be able to deliver basic services…where you have a vulnerable population today that needs to be able to resist the pleas to engage in extremism,” he said.

Cartwright said that the Obama administration’s caution over the United States’ level of involvement in Syria’s drawn-out and complicated conflict isn’t surprising.

“There are people there that are clearly not from inside Syria that are participating,” Cartwright said.

“They’re either in agreement with one side or the other, or they’re there to be postured when the conflict comes to an end [so] they will be able to influence the state affairs at the end,” he added. “Not knowing that makes it very difficult to stick your nose into someone else’s fight.”

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
Feb272013

John Kerry and Russian Counterpart Discuss Syrian Conflict

SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images(BERLIN) -- Secretary of State John Kerry held talks with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in Berlin on Tuesday regarding the conflict in Syria.

Washington and Moscow have long been at odds at how to best end the two-year civil war that has killed more than 70,000 people and threatens to further destabilize the Middle East.

Kerry, who is on his first overseas mission since becoming America's top envoy, has convinced Syria's main exile opposition group to attend a Friends of Syria conference in Rome this week to help seek a diplomatic solution to the crisis.

Lavrov said the talks were "constructive" and he hoped Kerry would keep pushing Syria's opposition to speak directly with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's government in order to stop the violence that seems to escalate week-to-week.

Al-Assad is now expressing a willingness to speak with Syria's armed opposition after months of refusing to talk with the fighters he calls "terrorists.

In other developments, there were published reports on Tuesday that the Obama administration may provide non-lethal military equipment, such as body armor and vehicles, and possibly strategic military training, to carefully selected rebel fighters as well as offering humanitarian assistance to the Syrian Opposition Coalition.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio







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