US Secretary of State John Kerry has met with Israeli officials at the end of a tour through the Middle East. He has advocated a Middle East peace process that prioritizes progress over speed.
Kerry's three days in the Middle East wrapped up on Tuesday with final comments to reporters at Ben Gurion Airport near Tel Aviv. He had spent the day meeting Israeli and Palestinian officials, including Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
"Each of the leaders that I met with assured me that they will put their best effort into trying to move forward," Kerry said, referring to Middle East peace negotiations that have been frozen since 2010. "Doing it right is more important than doing it quickly."
He said his talks with leaders on both sides had been "constructive" and both parties had "made very serious and well-constructed suggestions on what the road forward might look like."
Kerry also revealed a pledge for more economic stimulation aimed at the West Bank. He said this would include rapid movement toward "increased business expansion and private sector investment in the West Bank, all of which we are convinced will improve the economic security of the people living there."
Kerry shifts focus to Syria
The next destination on Kerry's itinerary is London, where he is expected to meet with leaders from the Syrian opposition. There is speculation that the US may shift its stance on supporting rebels in Syria with weaponry, although Kerry said any such decision would be up to the White House.
Joining Kerry in a meeting with opposition leaders from Syria on Wednesday will be some foreign ministers from the Group of Eight (G8).
British Foreign Secretary William Hague said Syria would be at the "top of our agenda."
"[Syrian opposition leaders] will be able to meet with some of the G8 foreign ministers tomorrow before the G8 fully gathers together and I will be joining and convening some of those meetings to discuss the urgent humanitarian needs and the urgent need for a political and diplomatic breakthrough on Syria," Hague told reporters in London on Tuesday.
Before departing Tel Aviv, John Kerry said the US preferred a diplomatic solution to the Syrian conflict, which recently entered its third year, but added "the problem is you can't get [to a diplomatic solution] if [Syrian] President [Bashar] al-Assad is unwilling to decide that he should transfer that authority."
Al Qaeda support in Syria
The meeting between G8 leaders and members of the Syrian opposition comes as an al Qaeda group in Iraq, the Islamic State of Iraq (ISI), revealed it had long been supporting jihadists fighting against President al-Assad for the Al-Nursa front. The connection between the two groups had until now been a poorly kept secret.
"The Al-Nusra Front is simply a branch of the Islamic State of Iraq," said Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, leader of the ISI. He added that the group was fighting for an Islamic state in Syria, and would henceforth be known as a merged entity called the Islamic State in Iraq and Sham, referring to the area that includes Syria and the surrounding region.
mz/ccp (AFP, Reuters, AP)