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Kerry, Abbas discuss reviving peace talks but offer no details

by Arshad Mohammed, Reuters

April 8, 2013 | 6:57 am

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas (right) meets with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry in the West Bank city of Ramallah on April 7. Photo by REUTERS/Mohamed Torokman

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas (right) meets with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry in the West Bank city of Ramallah on April 7. Photo by REUTERS/Mohamed Torokman

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas on Sunday discussed reviving Israeli-Palestinian peace talks but neither side offered details on how, when and whether that might happen.

Kerry, who spoke one-on-one with Abbas for about an hour after a 20-minute group meeting, is on his third trip to the region in three weeks, having accompanied President Barack Obama on his March 20-22 visit and returned alone a day later.

A senior U.S. official described Sunday's talks, which took place after a week marked by clashes between Palestinian youths and Israeli security forces in the West Bank, as a constructive meeting but said little about substance.

"During the one-on-one meeting, Secretary Kerry and President Abbas discussed the path to peace and they agreed to continue working together to determine the best path forward," the U.S. official said in an emailed statement.

While focusing on economic issues, the wider talks included a discussion of "how to create a positive climate" for peace talks, said the senior U.S. official.

The last round of direct negotiations quickly collapsed in late 2010 in a dispute over Jewish settlement building on land that Israel captured in a 1967 war and that the Palestinians want for a state.

The U.S. official said that Kerry had asked the Palestinian officials not to discuss the specifics of this discussion, a request they appear to have honoured.

"There will not be announcements (about the results of these interim meetings), but after two months of communications between the two sides and other parties, the leadership will be able to announce the results of all these communications, Nimr Hammad, an aide to Abbas, told Palestine TV after the meeting.

The past week saw violent clashes between youths and Israeli security forces in the West Bank, which raised fears that a new Palestinian uprising, or intifada, might be brewing.

In another sign of the tensions, rockets were fired out of the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip for three days running last week, while Israeli warplanes carried out their first strike on the territory since November.

A rocket was fired from the Gaza Strip after sundown on Sunday, as Israel began commemorating its national remembrance of the Nazi Holocaust, striking southern Israel but causing no damage or injuries, an Israeli police spokesman said.

After taking part in a wreath-laying to mark Israel's Holocaust Remembrance Day, Kerry is to hold separate talks on Monday with Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Salam Fayyad and Israeli President Shimon Peres, whose post is largely ceremonial.

On Tuesday he meets Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu before flying to London for a Group of Eight (G8) foreign ministers' meeting and then on to Asia for talks in South Korea and China. He returns to Washington on April 15.

Additional reporting by Noah Browning and Ali Sawafta in Ramallah and by Ari Rabinowitch in Jerusalem; Editing by Stephen Powell

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