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Friday, December 9, 2016

Kuwait City (AFP) – U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry vowed Wednesday to press his drive for Middle East peace despite a slur by Israel’s defence minister that sparked a furious row between the allies.

Kerry said he was not prepared to let the comments of one individual derail the marathon peace push which has seen him visit the Middle East 10 times in less than a year in the quest for a framework agreement by April.

Israeli Defence Minister Moshe Yaalon had reportedly described that quest as the “obsession” of a man with a “sense of messianism,” sparking outrage in the White House which described the comments as “offensive”.

Yaalon later apologized but the spat underlined the estrangement between the longtime allies which has already seen angry public rows over Iran policy and Israel’s defiant drive to expand its settlements in the occupied West Bank in the midst of peace talks with the Palestinians.

Kerry himself brushed off the personal attack without mentioning the minister by name and pledged to keep up his intensive shuttle diplomacy with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and “willing” participants in the peace process.

“Prime Minister Netanyahu and I talk regularly and we are both very committed to moving the process forward, and we just can’t let one set of comments undermine that effort and I don’t intend to,” Kerry said.

“Everywhere I go, even here today, everybody I talk to expresses gratitude to the efforts the United States is making, for President (Barack) Obama’s commitment to try to make peace between Palestinians and Israelis,” he told reporters in Kuwait, where he was attending a Syria donors’ conference.

“I am going to work with the willing participants who are committed to peace and committed to this process.”

In private conversations between Israeli and U.S. officials, revealed by the top-selling Israeli newspaper, Yediot Aharonot, Yaalon was quoted as expressing hope that Kerry would abandon plans to make an 11th visit later this month to keep up his peace efforts.

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