Kerry, Abbas to meet after peace talks collapse

Photo: Kerry, Abbas to meet after peace talks collapse / Arab-Israel Relations

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry will meet Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas in London this week for the first time since peace talks collapsed last month, officials said.

"Secretary Kerry will meet with president Abbas in London on Thursday," State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said in a statement.

"While the door remains open to a peace process, the purpose of the meeting is to discuss our ongoing relationship with the Palestinians," she said.

Earlier, a Palestinian official told AFP the "meeting will discuss a possible resumption of negotiations with Israel."

Kerry will be in London for a meeting on Thursday about the three-year conflict in Syria. Al Arabiya reported.

The top U.S. diplomat dragged the Israelis and Palestinians back to the negotiating table in July, ending a three-year freeze in negotiations.

But his peace efforts derailed even before an April 29 deadline, with Palestinian and Israeli leaders exchanging recriminations and reneging on commitments made during nine months of fruitless talks.

"The meeting could be the last attempt by Kerry to revive negotiations," the Palestinian official said, asking to remain anonymous.

French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius, who is on a visit to Washington and will meet with Kerry on Tuesday, said the breakdown of the peace process was "for all of us a source of great concern."

"The security of Israel is by no means negotiable, but we know that it will be reinforced by a negotiated settlement," he told a leading Jewish lobby group, AJC Global Jewish Advocacy.

"Both parties must be aware of the benefit of reaching an agreement as well the price of failure. The costs are obvious and heavy, the advantages must be emphazised too."

Kerry last met Abbas in Amman in late March, and had planned to return to Ramallah for further talks a few days later when Israel made a surprise announcement of plans for 700 new settlements and refused to release a last group of Palestinian prisoners.

Angered by the move, Abbas hastily decided to seek membership of 15 U.N. conventions.

Both moves broke the terms of the July deal, and a frustrated Kerry flew back home from Europe without returning to Israel.

Only days later, Israel suspended its participation in the peace negotiations, infuriated as Abbas unveiled plans to set up a Palestinian unity government with Islamic Hamas militants who run the Gaza Strip.

The April 23 deal between the Palestine Liberation Organization, dominated by Abbas's Fatah party, was also denounced by Washington, which has insisted that Hamas must renounce violence and recognize the existence of Israel.

"As he has throughout the process, Secretary Kerry will reiterate a call he has made to both sides to maintain restraint and refrain from steps that would be unhelpful," Psaki said.

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