State Dept. Says It’s Going to Paris Conference to Defend Israel

State Department spokesman Mark Toner said Thursday that Secretary of State John Kerry is going to this weekend's Middle East peace conference in Paris to defend Israel, despite the Obama administration allowing a resolution condemning Israeli settlements to pass through the United Nations Security Council.

Kerry is going to Paris for the conference on what will probably be his last foreign trip as secretary of state.

Associated Press reporter Matt Lee asked Toner if Kerry was going to the conference to protect the Jewish state from an anti-Israel conclusion.

"I think we feel obliged to be there, to be part of the discussions, to help make them into something that we believe is constructive and positively oriented towards getting negotiations back up and running and doesn't attempt to in any way kind of dictate a solution," Toner said.

Lee said Toner's comments sounded odd after the U.S. abstained last month from a U.N. Security Council vote that critics say was anti-Israel, breaking with decades of American policy to defend the Jewish state at the U.N. and veto such measures. Kerry gave a speech on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict days after the vote that criticized Israel on multiple issues, particularly its settlement activity in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.

Toner said that the Obama administration stands by its abstention vote.

When asked if those at the conference will make a stand condemning the Trump administration's intention to move the U.S. Embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, Toner did not say if Kerry would agree with other countries who may write such a statement.

Toner would not answer any version of the question, but did say that Kerry would be clear about his views on the issue. Kerry believes that moving the embassy would increase tensions in the region.