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Saturday September 7, 2013 MYT 7:35:02 PM
Saturday September 7, 2013 MYT 7:36:13 PM
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry speaks as he meets with Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaite at the Presidential Palace in Vilnius September 7, 2013. REUTERS/Susan Walsh/Pool
VILNIUS (Reuters) - U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry urged the European Union on Saturday to put off a planned ban on EU financial assistance to Israeli organizations in the occupied Palestinian territories, a U.S. official said.
Kerry made the request at a meeting with EU foreign ministers at which he also called on them to support Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations, which resumed on July 29 after a nearly three-year hiatus.
The EU imposed restrictions in July citing its frustration over the continued expansion of Jewish settlements in territory captured by Israeli forces in the 1967 Middle East War.
A senior U.S. State Department official told reporters that Kerry called on the Europeans to consider postponing the implementation of EU guidelines on aid.
"There was strong support for his efforts and an openness to considering his requests," he said.
The guidelines render Israeli entities operating in the occupied territories ineligible for EU grants, prizes or loans, beginning next year.
Jewish settler leaders say the aid they receive from Europe is minimal. But many in Israel worry about possible knock-on effects the EU steps may have on individuals or companies based in Israel that might be involved in business in the settlements, deemed illegal by the international community.
Israeli-Palestinian peace has been Kerry's main foreign policy initiative since becoming secretary of state on February 1.
He is scheduled to brief some League ministers on his peace efforts in Paris on Sunday and then to meet Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas the same day in London.
He is also expected to see Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu soon, though not on his current trip to Europe which ends on Monday.
The core issues that need to be settled in the more than six-decade-old Israeli-Palestinian dispute include borders, the fate of Palestinian refugees, the future of Jewish settlements in the West Bank and the status of Jerusalem.
(Reporting By Arshad Mohammed; Editing by Angus MacSwan)
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