Palestinians: Mideast talks ‘difficult’

Photo: Palestinians: Mideast talks ‘difficult’  / Israel-Arab Relations

Top Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erakat said Thursday peace talks with Israel were "difficult and complicated," after a meeting between Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry in the West Bank city of Ramallah Al Arabiya reported.

"The situation is still very difficult and matters are complicated," Erakat told Agence France-Presse.

"Abbas met Kerry for four hours... and discussed issues including security. We hope Israel will stick to its commitments and be forced to stop settlement building. Settlements are the reason for the difficulties in negotiations," he said.

Kerry and Abbas met after the U.S. representative's more than three-hour meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Following the meetings, the U.S. Secretary of State reiterated the importance of Israel's security, which he said was the focus of his visit to the region.

"We are not going to discuss this further publicly," Kerry told reporters after the meeting, saying only that their discussions on security had made "progress," according to AFP.

"I think the interests are very similar, but there are questions of sovereignty, questions of respect and dignity, which are obviously significant to the Palestinians, and for the Israelis very serious questions of security.

"Shortly, perhaps in a week or so, I may return for further discussions, depending on where we are," Kerry added.

Abbas made no public appearance after the meeting, AFP reported.

Kerry landed in Israel late Wednesday in hopes of re-invigorating Israeli-Palestinian peace talks, which have made little apparent progress since they began under his patronage in late July.

Israel's construction of settlements on land the Palestinians want for their future state has threatened to derail the peace talks just months after they began.

The Palestinian negotiating team has already presented its resignation over the issue, but Abbas has not yet accepted it.

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