LONDON: US Secretary of State John Kerry met in London with Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas for their first face-to-face talks since the peace process collapsed last month, US officials said.
The two met in an upscale hotel for what US officials have billed as “informal” talks, seeking to downplay any hopes of a breakthrough in Kerry’s ill-fated bid to reach an Israeli-Palestinian peace deal. “The door remains open to the peace process. The secretary continues to believe that,” a senior State Department official said before Kerry left Washington.
“But the purpose of the meeting is more about our ongoing relationship with the Palestinian people.”
After weeks of angry moves by both sides, Israel suspended its participation in the talks on April 23 after Abbas announced the Palestine Liberation Organisation — which is dominated by his moderate Fatah party — was seeking a unity deal with the Hamas militants who run the Gaza Strip.
Washington has branded Hamas a terrorist organisation since 1993 and has said it must recognise Israel and renounce violence.
Top US officials have already warned that any Palestinian government which includes members of Hamas would risk a freeze in hundreds of millions of dollars of US funding to the Palestinian Authority.
Under US law the government is banned from supporting groups branded as foreign terrorist organisations.
Kerry coaxed the Israelis and the Palestinians back to the negotiating table in July after a three-year hiatus, and both sides agreed to keep talking for nine months.
But the April 29 deadline expired with the peace process in disarray, forcing Kerry and his team to declare a “pause” in the negotiations. Abbas met earlier yesterday with British Prime Minister David Cameron.
“President Abbas outlined his plans for a new, technocratic Palestinian government, committed to the Quartet principles, including non-violence and the recognition of Israel,” a Downing Street spokesman said.
“He also expressed his readiness to resume peace talks with Israel and his hope that this could be achieved rapidly.”
Cameron had urged Abbas to make “progress towards securing the rapid resumption of peace talks, which remain the only viable route to a lasting solution.”
On Tuesday, Israeli President Shimon Peres said he hoped for a return to talks with the Palestinians.
“The negotiations with the Palestinians, led by Secretary Kerry, are currently paused but they are not finished,” he told a press conference in Oslo.
“Neither side has a better alternative than peace based upon two states for two peoples. I hope that the negotiations will be re-started,” he said.AFP