Kerry Squeezes In More Talks At End Of Mideast Mission

by
Reuters
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry squeezed in final meetings with Israeli and Palestinian leaders on Sunday as he wrapped up a fifth peace-brokering visit to the region with little sign of progress.

kerry

* Fifth peace mission with little sign of progress

* Kerry due to visit Ramallah then leave for Asia

* Few details of talks between top U.S. diplomat and hosts

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry squeezed in final meetings with Israeli and Palestinian leaders on Sunday as he wrapped up a fifth peace-brokering visit to the region with little sign of progress.

After six hours of overnight talks with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem, Kerry was scheduled to drive out to see Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in Ramallah. He was to due to leave for Asia in the afternoon.

Kerry has met both men repeatedly in separate locations since Wednesday in the hope of finding a formula to revive direct Israeli-Palestinian peacemaking stalled since 2010 by a dispute over Jewish settlements in the occupied West Bank.

The top U.S. diplomat and his hosts have divulged little about the discussions, some of which took place in Jordan. But Israeli and Palestinian officials on Saturday saw little chance of a diplomatic breakthrough.

Abbas has said that, for new talks to be held, Netanyahu must freeze the settlements and recognise the West Bank's boundary before its capture by Israel in the 1967 Middle East war as the basis for the border of a future Palestinian state.

Israel, seeking to keep settlement blocs under any peace accord, balks at those terms, deeming them preconditions.

State Department official said Kerry's marathon discussions with Netanyahu and advisers in a hotel suite ended shortly before 4 a.m. (0100 GMT) on Sunday.

Afterwards, Kerry strolled through the deserted streets of Jerusalem accompanied by his security and one of his advisers on the Middle East, Frank Lowenstein.

"They discussed a wide range of issues related to the peace process, building on their earlier conversations this week," a State Department official said of the meeting with Netanyahu.

Kerry is keen to get fresh peacemaking under way before the United Nations General Assembly, which has already granted de facto recognition to a Palestinian state, convenes in September.

Netanyahu is concerned that the Palestinians, in the absence of direct peace talks, could use the U.N. session as a springboard for further moves to get their statehood recognised, circumventing Israel.