Qatar to ease Palestinian debt, peace talks intensify - Kerry

PARIS (Reuters) - Qatar has agreed to provide $150 million in debt relief to the Palestinian Authority, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said on Monday as he announced that Israeli-Palestinian peace talks are intensifying.

Speaking after he briefed Arab states about the direct peace negotiations, which resumed on July 29 with a goal of reaching an agreement within nine months, Kerry told reporters that the two sides have increased the pace of their discussions.

The Israelis and Palestinians have held 13 meetings since the talks got going after a nearly three-year hiatus, including three meetings in the last four days, Kerry said at a joint news conference with Qatari Foreign Minister Khaled al-Attiyah.

He also said that the government of Qatar would offer the debt relief to the donor-dependent Palestinian Authority, which exercises limited self-rule in the Israeli-occupied West Bank and faces mounting debt as Western and Gulf aid has dwindled.

"The two parties have been engaged now in 13 meetings - serious meetings. They had three meetings in the last four days," Kerry said. "All the core issues are on the table. And they have been meeting with increased intensity."

He also praised Qatar for the debt relief, about which he provided no further details, saying: "for everybody to live up to the challenges of making peace, we have to support them, including living up to our obligations on the economic front."

Welcoming Qatar's move, Kerry said he expected other Arab countries would follow in its steps although no economic package could be a substitute for political efforts to seek peace.

"I'm confident that other Arab governments are currently evaluating and making their decisions and there will be others that join in this initiative as we go forward," Kerry said.

While the pace of the meetings between the Israelis and the Palestinians may have picked up, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas have not met since the negotiations resumed.

Kerry meets Netanyahu in Rome on Wednesday for talks that will cover both the Iranian nuclear program - which the United States and Israel suspect may be a cover to develop nuclear weapons, although Tehran denies this - and the peace process.

The United States is seeking to broker an agreement in which Israel would exist peacefully alongside a new Palestinian state created in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, lands captured by the Israelis in a 1967 war.

The core issues include the delineation of borders, the future of Jewish settlements on the West Bank - some of which Israel wishes to keep - the fate of Palestinian refugees and the status of Jerusalem. (Reporting by Arshad Mohammed; Writing by Leigh Thomas and Arshad Mohammed; Editing by Alison Williams and Eric Walsh)

Matches

MORE TOP STORIES TODAY

Punjab pull off another big chase

Punjab pull off another big chase

GAME 7, SHARJAH—Maxwell, Miller, Pujara chase down Rajasthan's 192. More »

Royal test for Kings

Royal test for Kings

Preview — Clash of philosophies between Australia-centric teams More »

Have nothing to prove to anybody — Sehwag

Have nothing to prove to anybody — Sehwag

The Nawab of Najafgarh says a good run in IPL could help his chances of a comeback on India's tour to England in June. More »

Shastri in proposed IPL probe panel

Shastri in proposed IPL probe panel

Some members stressed on the need for proposing names with an "impeccable record and clean image". More »

Duminy steals first win for Delhi

Duminy steals first win for Delhi

Furious fifties by Duminy and Dinesh Karthik end a long losing streak for the Daredevils. More »

Five things England must do to bounce back

Five things England must do to bounce back

England have appointed a new head coach in Peter Moores. More »

AB, Parthiv seal Bangalore's second win

AB, Parthiv seal Bangalore's second win

Royal Challengers overcame a stutter to cruise to the small target they were set by Mumbai Indians. More »

‘Felt like helpless minority’

‘Felt like helpless minority’

Former BCCI treasurer Ajay Shirke says emotions got the better of Srinivasan and he tried to oversimplify things by calling Meiyappan an “enthusiast.” More »

Srinivasan can attend BCCI meeting

Srinivasan can attend BCCI meeting

His status as president of TNCA makes him eligible to attend the Working Committee meeting on Sunday. More »

No way back for Pietersen: ECB

No way back for Pietersen: ECB

Kevin Pietersen's hopes of reviving his international career appeared to end Saturday when ECB managing director Paul Downton said there was 'no way back'… More »

The world record that nearly wasn't

The world record that nearly wasn't

Twenty years ago this week, Brian Lara became Test cricket's highest scorer, but he almost didn't make it. More »

Maxwell carves his parallel universe

Maxwell carves his parallel universe

Glenn Maxwell seems to project an icy disdain when at the crease. Match situations rarely faze him and the bubble in which he plays excludes everyone … More »

Moores gets second stint as coach

Moores gets second stint as coach

In a two-year spell from 2007 to 2009, the 51-year-old Moores led England in seven Test series. More »

Bangladesh senior players to see shrink

Bangladesh senior players to see shrink

Bangladesh's senior players will have three sessions with a psychological skill development coach later this month More »

BCCI is not anybody’s property — Dalmiya

BCCI is not anybody’s property — Dalmiya

Dalmiya feels that Srinivasan’s ‘power hungry’ attitude isn’t helping matters. More »

Tough for bowlers: Saeed Ajmal

Tough for bowlers: Saeed Ajmal

The 36-year-old believes the T20 format and rule changes in 50-over matches have made a real difference. More »

KP ridicules idea of day-night Tests

KP ridicules idea of day-night Tests

Kevin Pietersen has ridiculed the idea of day-night Test cricket, saying the game would be so different to proper Test cricket that we will need a whole… More »

Rajasthan edge low-scoring thriller

Rajasthan edge low-scoring thriller

The bowlers restricted Hyderabad to 133 for 6 before Rahane and Binny took Rajasthan over the line. More »

Maxwell blitz takes Punjab home

Maxwell blitz takes Punjab home

The Kings XI batsman blasted a 43-ball 95 to help his team pull off a massive chase against Chennai Super Kings. More »

BCCI members want independent probe

BCCI members want independent probe

The board members are realising after the Supreme Court's observations that something has to be done — IS Bindra More »

'BCCI lacks leaders to take on Srini'

'BCCI lacks leaders to take on Srini'

Two former BCCI presidents, Shashank Manohar and Jagmohan Dalmiya, have reacted strongly to the news of the BCCI calling an emergent meeting on Sunday… More »

Delhi look for first points against confident Kolkata

Delhi look for first points against confident Kolkata

Preview — The threat of Sunil Narine looms large again. More »

Bangalore vs Mumbai: A battle of the big-hitters

Bangalore vs Mumbai: A battle of the big-hitters

Preview — Given the firepower in both line-ups, Dubai crowd may see another high-scorer More »

Yuvraj tees off to Sharjah's delight

Yuvraj tees off to Sharjah's delight

Yuvraj Singh was hardly convincing to begin with against Delhi, but a big dose of crowd support and a helping of poor bowling meant he had the opportunity… More »