White House security advisor meets Saudi king
White House national security advisor James Jones held discussions with Saudi King Abdullah Tuesday on the first stop of a regional tour amid a bid by the US to revive Israeli-Palestinian peace talks, AFP reported.
The two "discussed a number of issues of interest to the two countries," the official SPA news agency said in a brief report on the meeting.
Jones also met Saudi Defence Minister Crown Prince Sultan bin Abdul Aziz.
He is due to go on to Israel and the Palestinian territories.
The trip is to "discuss the full range of regional challenges and opportunities at this critical time," his spokesman Mike Hammer said Monday.
But it comes as both Israel and the Palestinians remain at odds over the issue of Israel's settlements.
The Palestinians and their Arab backers -- with Saudi Arabia one of the most important -- insist that peace talks cannot open until Israel freezes the construction of Jewish settlements in the occupied West bank and East Jerusalem.
Israel and the United States say talks should proceed with no preconditions.
However, Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas on Tuesday said for the first time that he might restart peace talks with Israel if it froze settlement expansion for a "fixed period."
"We will not accept the relaunching of negotiations without a complete halt to settlements, including in Jerusalem, for a fixed period," Abbas told reporters in the West Bank town of Ramallah.
Jones' mission coincides with an effort by US Middle East peace envoy George Mitchell to rally Europe behind the new American efforts to work towards a two-state peace deal.