Before Leaving Mideast Region, Kerry Meets With Abbas in Ramallah

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United States Secretary of State John Kerry will personally meet with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas at his office in Ramallah on Friday after the end of the daily Ramadan fast, a source in the West Bank city has told Haaretz.

Kerry made the surprise decision to hold the meeting at the PA's Muqata compound despite two meetings Kerry already had in Amman with Chief Palestinian Negotiator Saeb Erekat on Friday.

A Palestinian source stated that the Palestinians are holding steadfast to a demand that Israel declare in writing that negotiations will be based on 1967 borders, and that they will not make do with an American declaration that does not require an Israeli commitment.

The Palestinian leadership made clear on Thursday that it would not enter talks without clear guidelines, particularly on the border issue, said the source. He added, The Palestinian leadership refuses to accept the outline according to which the Palestinians will recognize Israel as a Jewish state.

Another source confirmed that there was a feeling that the Americans had reached a dead-end and Kerry had decided to change his schedule and personally come to Ramallah to exert pressure on Abbas.

Kerry is expected return to Washington on Friday afternoon. It is as yet unclear whether he will manage to gain the consensus that would allow him to announce that the stalled talks are set to resume.

A senior Palestinian official said that during the meetings of the Palestinian leadership in Ramallah on Thursday it became clear that the Palestinians did not feel able to resume negotiations for the time being but were open to further discussions with Kerry.

Ahmed Majdalani, a PLO executive committee member, told the Associated Press that Kerry has proposed holding talks for six to nine months focusing on the key issues of borders and security arrangements. He said Kerry would endorse the 1967 lines as the starting point of negotiations and assured the Palestinians that Israel would free some 350 prisoners gradually in the coming months. 

Seeking to boost pressure on Israel, U.S. President Barack Obama telephoned Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Thursday evening. Obama urged Netanyahu to continue cooperating with Kerry and "to resume negotiations with the Palestinians as soon as possible," the White House said. Over the past three months Obama refrained from interfering in Kerry's efforts in the Mideast.  

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry in Amman, July 17, 2013.Credit: Reuters

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