US Secretary of State John Kerry met Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas in London, having earlier insisted that Israelis and Palestinians were determined to pursue direct peace talks.
Kerry met Abbas at London’s Ritz Carlton on Sunday evening, the pair smiling and joking before holding a three-hour private meeting, their first talks since direct negotiations between the Israelis and the Palestinians began last month.
Since becoming Secretary of State in February, Kerry has dedicated much of his energy to restarting peace talks between Israelis and Palestinians, which were frozen in September 2010.
After six trips to the region in four months, he met negotiators from both sides — Palestinian Saeb Erekat and Israeli Justice Minister Tzipi Livni — in Washington on July 29 and 30.
Secret bilateral meetings, with and without the presence of American sponsors, were then held in Jerusalem in August and early September.
During an earlier stop-off in Paris, Kerry said he soon planned to meet Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. A State Department official however said it was premature to talk of trilateral talks between the three leaders.
Kerry had earlier praised efforts to hold talks “despite tough decisions and despite pressure that exists on both sides.
On Wednesday, a senior Palestinian official dismissed Kerry’s long-running efforts to broker peace, saying talks had been futile.
But a State Department official on Sunday told the travelling press that the Palestinian official was “ignorant of what’s happening in the negotiations”.
Kerry also met in Paris with his Egyptian, Qatari and Saudi counterparts as part of efforts to engage the whole region in a solution.
During talks with Arab League officials, Kerry said there was agreement that “a final status agreement is important in enhancing regional security and stability throughout the Middle East”.
Qatari Foreign Minister Khaled al-Attiyah however criticised Israel for continuing to build Jewish settlements, saying it was damaging peace efforts.
This “directly affects the negotiations”, Attiyah said.
In line with Kerry’s desire to keep the details of the negotiations secret in order to give the process a chance to work, little has leaked about the talks.
Kerry also urged the European Union to suspend new guidelines introduced in July forbidding its 28 member states from dealing with or funding any Israeli “entities” in the occupied Palestinian territories, including the West Bank and east Jerusalem.