Israeli foreign minister defends peace-maker Kerry

U.S. Secretary of State Kerry waves while boarding his plane at Franz-Josef-Strauss Airport in MunichIsrael’s right-wing foreign minister on Friday defended U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry whose Middle East peace drive has seen mounting criticism from within the Israeli government. The conciliatory remarks by Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, who has previously been a vocal critic of international efforts to set up a Palestinian state on Israeli-occupied territory, could help Kerry cobble together consensus for pursuing the peace negotiations. “I want to make clear – Kerry is a true friend of Israel,” Lieberman told business leaders in Tel Aviv. “What is the point of turning friend into foe?” Lieberman has taken a more circumspect tack since resuming the role of foreign minister after he was cleared of graft charges last year. Kerry launched the latest Israeli-Palestinian peace push last July and has visited the region more than 10 times in the past year. He hopes to complete a “framework” accord by an April deadline and will then try to negotiate a final peace deal by the end of 2014, a U.S. official has said. However, both sides are standing firm on their demands in decades-old disputes. Israeli ultra-nationalists and their representatives in Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s coalition government have come out against the prospect – however remote – of removing Jewish settlers, citing historical claims on biblical lands sought by the Palestinians for an independent state. More
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