Rome is a diplomatic crossroads for Middle East negotiations. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry is in the Italian capital today as part of an effort to restart Israeli-Palestinian talks, acting as envoy for President Barak Obama, who visited Israel and the Palestinian Territories in March. Tony Blair is also in Rome representing the Middle East Quartet (EU, U.S., Russia and the UN).
Less than a week after his latest meeting in Washington with Israeli Justice Minister Tzipi Livni, John Kerry met with her once again in Rome. Livni is charged by her government with overseeing the Palestinian peace talks and was accompanied by chief Israeli negotiator Yitzhak Molcho. Kerry took the opportunity to announce that he would be meeting on 21 and 22 May with both Israeli Premier Benyamin Netanyahu and Palestinian President Abu Mazen. Both parties, the Secretary of State said, “are working with renewed dedication”. Livni expressed appreciation for the U.S. administration’s commitment, saying that “the determination and efforts of the United States are capable of changing things” and of restoring “hope to the region”. Italy also lends its support to Kerry’s efforts.
Minister Emma Bonino, who is scheduled to meet today with the U.S. Secretary of State, said in a meeting with Livni at the foreign ministry in Rome that she hoped “the atmosphere of mutual trust necessary to the pursuit of a two-State solution” would be created.
The Syrian tragedy
While in Italy Kerry will also be confronting the Syrian tragedy. Fresh from a trip to Moscow, where he announced, along with his Russian counterpart Serghei Lavrov, that an international conference would be held at the end of the month to attempt to find a political solution. Before his meeting with Jordanian Foreign Minister Nasser Judeh, Kerry said that Bashar al Assad could not be allowed to take part in a transitional government in Syria. Syria will be among the topics on the agenda of his meeting today with Minister Bonino and was also the focus of Bonino’s meeting with her Jordanian colleague.
Bonino, negotiated political solution
Minister Bonino stressed that the only possible objective was a political solution that included Assad stepping down. Broad attention was also reserved for the conflict’s dramatic impact on the civilian population.