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U.S. envoy promises measures to help Palestinian economy

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(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

TEL AVIV (Reuters) - U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said on Tuesday he had agreed to work with Israeli and Palestinian leaders to boost economic growth in the occupied West Bank as he seeks ways to revive Middle East peace talks.

Speaking after a three-day visit to the region, during which he met Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, Kerry told reporters that he would provide full details of the economic plans next week.

"We agreed among us ... that we are going to engage in new efforts, very specific efforts, to promote economic development ... and to remove some of the bottlenecks and barriers that exist with respect to commerce in the West Bank," he said.

Citing security concerns, Israel maintains a network of military checkpoints in the West Bank, territory it captured in the 1967 Middle East war and which Palestinians seek as part of a future state along with East Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip.

"With respect to the economic plans ... I will be very specific next week," Kerry said. "We will have a Washington meeting and you all will have a chance to see this fleshed out in full."

With Kerry at his side before talks earlier in the day in Jerusalem, Netanyahu told reporters that Israel wanted to "make a serious effort" to end the conflict with the Palestinians.

"This has economic components, and we welcome any initiatives that you and others will bring forward in this regard," Netanyahu said.

"But it also has a political component, political discussions that will address a myriad of issues. Foremost in our minds are questions of recognition and security," Netanyahu added, referring to his demand Palestinians recognise Israel as the Jewish state, a step they fear could compromise any right of return of Palestinian refugees.

Kerry was making his third visit to the region in less than three weeks, but has not put forward any new initiative to encourage the two sides to return to negotiations, which have been frozen since 2010.

(Reporting by Arshad Mohammed, Editing by Jeffrey Heller and Crispian Balmer)

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/thomson-reuters/130409/us-envoy-promises-measures-help-palestinian-economy