Kerry hopes next Palestinian prime minister can work with US

TOKYO (AP) - US Secretary of State John Kerry said on Sunday he hoped the Palestinians pick a new prime minister who can work with the United States and "establish confidence" so that peace in the Middle East can advance.

Speaking to journalists in Tokyo, Mr Kerry praised Mr Salaam Fayyad, who until resigning on Saturday as prime minister was seen as one of the Palestinians' most moderate and respected figures. Mr Kerry called Fayyad a "good friend" who made a big difference for Palestinians.

Mr Fayyad's resignation comes as Mr Kerry is working to revive the Israeli-Palestinian peace process. An important part of his strategy is developing the Palestinian economy and state institutions so the Palestinians can be a viable partner in any peace deal with Israel.

The US had expected Mr Fayyad to play a significant role in that effort. However, the 61-year-old political independent and Western-trained economist had clashed with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas over the extent of the prime minister's power.

"We're totally committed to moving forward with the economic thing no matter what," Mr Kerry said, citing US business partners, including Coca-Cola. "The West Bank is there, Palestinian aspirations are there, the government is there. And in order to be a viable government, there's got to be more than one person that you can do business with."

"So, we will continue to work at this and hope that President Abbas finds the right person to work with him in a transition, and work with us, to establish confidence," he added. "Everybody is going to want somebody who provides confidence."

Mr Kerry said he preferred that Mr Fayyad stay on the job, but that he understood Mr Fayyad's decision.

"He's been sick, he's tired, he's been at this seven years. He has kids in school. He's anxious to carve his own path here, and I respect that," Mr Kerry said.

"But he's going to be there for a while. I had a long conversation with him. He's resigned, and he accepted his resignation. But there's going to be a caretaker process for some period of time and he's not going to go away from Palestinian politics completely - if at all."