U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said it was important that Israeli and Palestinian leaders clarify the status around Jerusalem’s al-Aqsa mosque compound and agree on steps to calm unrest during talks this week.
Kerry will meet with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Germany and separately with President Mahmoud Abbas and Jordan’s King Abdullah at the end of the week to discuss ways to end the violence.
He also said he will hold a meeting this week in Europe with counterparts from Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Russia to explore options for a political transition in Syria.
“I will be coming back in a few days and will meet with leaders from Russia, Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Jordan to work through real and tangible options that could perhaps reignite a political process and bring about a political transition in Syria,” Kerry told a news conference in Madrid.
Kerry will travel back to Washington on Monday for talks at the White House before returning to Europe.
Daily attacks in Israel have sparked a sense of panic in violence triggered in part by Palestinians’ anger over what they see as increased Jewish encroachment on the al-Aqsa mosque, which is Islam’s holiest site outside Saudi Arabia and also revered by Jews as the location of two destroyed biblical temples.
Kerry said Israel had a right to protect itself against random acts of violence, and in his conversations with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu the Israeli leader said he was committed to maintaining the status quo at the holy site.
“I don’t have specific expectations except to try to move things forward, and that will depend on the conversations themselves,” Kerry told reporters.
He added that he did not expect any changes in the status quo at the holy site.
“Israel understands the importance of the status quo and … our objective is to make sure that everyone understands what that means (…) We are not seeking a new change or outsiders to come in, I don’t think Israel or Jordan wants that and we’re not proposing it. What we need is clarity,” Kerry said.