July 16, 2013 / 2:47 PM / 6 years ago

Kerry to meet Palestinians' Abbas on sixth peacemaking trip

AMMAN (Reuters) - U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry was due to meet Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in Jordan on Tuesday as he tries to nudge the Palestinians and Israelis toward a resumption of peace talks that broke down nearly three years ago.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry steps off his plane upon his arrival at Queen Alia International Airport in Amman, July 16, 2013. REUTERS/Mandel Ngan/Pool

Making his sixth trip to the region since taking office, Kerry will hold talks with Jordanian Foreign Minister Nasser Judeh before having dinner with Abbas, a senior State Department official said.

On Wednesday, he will meet officials from the Arab League, which in 2002 put forward a peace proposal that offered full Arab recognition of Israel if it gave up land seized in a 1967 war and accepted a “just solution” for Palestinian refugees.

Israeli officials said they were unaware of any plans by Kerry to visit Israel during the trip.

Kerry, who ended a round of shuttle diplomacy between Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on June 30, said at the time that “with a little more work, the start of final status negotiations could be within reach”.

But there is deep scepticism among diplomats and Middle East analysts that the Israelis and Palestinians will resume peace talks and some regard the issue as less pressing than Syria’s civil war, the Egyptian army’s overthrow of President Mohamed Mursi and Iran’s nuclear programme.

Israeli-Palestinian peacemaking broke down in a dispute over Israeli settlement building in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem, which the Palestinians want for an independent state.

Abbas has said that, for new talks to be held, Netanyahu must freeze the settlements and recognise the West Bank’s boundary before its capture by Israel in the 1967 Middle East war as the basis for the future Palestine’s border.

Israel, seeking to keep major settlement blocs under any peace accord and citing security concerns, balks at those terms.

“We are saying clearly, we are ready to sit at the table immediately without preconditions, and to discuss everything,” Israeli Defence Minister Moshe Yaalon told reporters in northern Israel.

“Not to meet once or twice, rather to enter into a long-term discussion. At this stage, the Palestinian are not willing to come without preconditions, and therefore, as things stand now, this initiative has not succeeded,” he said of Kerry’s efforts.

Kerry has sought to ensure that any new peace process would have the backing of the Arab states, which, if they were to offer Israel a comprehensive peace, hold a powerful card that could provide an incentive for Israeli compromises.

The core issues that need to be settled in the more than six-decade-old dispute include borders, the fate of Palestinian refugees, the future of Jewish settlements in the West Bank and the status of Jerusalem.

Editing by Jeffrey Heller and Alistair Lyon

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