U.S. State Dept. forcefully denies Kerry plans to restart talks

WASHINGTON (JTA) – The U.S.  State Department spokesman forcefully denied that U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry had any plans to visit Israel in the near term to restart peace talks with the Palestinians.

“No plans by ‪@JohnKerry to travel soon to Israel,” John Kirby said Saturday on Twitter in an unusual unsolicited reply to a Times of Israel story quoting Israel’s Channel 2 as saying that Kerry hoped to restart talks. “Also no plan by him to restart talks. Need both sides to reduce violence.”

Obama administration officials have said that after the failure of the Kerry-led 2013-2014 talks, they have concluded that the sides need to drive the talks, something they say is unlikely given the recent spate of Palestinian attacks on Israelis, and the Israeli response.

The Channel 2 report comes amid anxieties in Israel that President Barack Obama plans to use his lame duck year to impose a peace deal on the sides. Obama administration officials say there is no basis for such fears.

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