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Newly Installed Kerry talks to Netanyahu, Abbas

By: JTA

Secretary of State John Kerry, fresh off his confirmation, spoke with the Israeli and Palestinian leaders.

Also over the weekend, two top State Department officials dealing with Iran’s nuclear threat said they would be stopping in Israel during overseas visits, and IDF chief of staff Lt. Gen. Benny Gantz, was visiting Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Martin E. Dempsey in Washington.

State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland told Reuters that Kerry “underscored his personal commitment and that of President Obama to support Israel’s security and to pursue a lasting peace between Israelis and Palestinians.”

Kerry, who plans to visit the region next month, also spoke to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.

The State Department in a statement laid out the agenda for the two State Department officials – Rose Gottemoeller, the acting undersecretary for arms control, and Thomas Countryman, the assistant secretary for nonproliferation.

Countryman will “meet with Israeli counterparts to discuss nonproliferation and international security issues of mutual concern,” and Gottemoeller will “consult with senior civilian and military officials on pressing regional security issues and expanding our enduring strategic partnership” and deliver remarks at a conference on nuclear nonproliferation, the statement said.

The Obama administration has indicated that it is seeking to engage with Iran in direct talks aimed at ending Iran’s suspected nuclear weapons program. Iran says its nuclear activity is strictly peaceful.

The IDF said generals Gantz and Dempsey will “discuss current security challenges, the regional security status in the Middle East and military cooperation.”

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