US Secretary of State John Kerry is to visit Amman “within days,” Jordan’s top diplomat said on Sunday after talks with Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas focused on US peace efforts.
Speaking at a joint press conference in the West Bank city of Ramallah, Jordanian Foreign Minister Nasser Judeh said his talks with Abbas had focused on Kerry’s intensive efforts to revive Israeli-Palestinian peace talks after a hiatus of nearly three years.
“As we know, there is a major effort by the Americans at this time to return to negotiations and my visit is part of this effort,” he said at the news conference with his Palestinian counterpart Riyad al-Malki.
“Kerry has been in Jordan three times already and he will be back for a fourth visit within days,” Judeh said, without saying who Kerry would meet or whether he would also travel to Jerusalem and Ramallah.
Judeh said he had onpassed a letter from Jordan’s King Abdullah II to Abbas, without giving details.
Malki said the visit was to ensure “coordination” between Jordan and the Palestinian leadership. He did not elaborate.
Over the past four months, Kerry has been engaged in an intensive bout of shuttle diplomacy aimed at finding a way back to some form of direct negotiations. He last visited Jerusalem and Ramallah on May 23-24 for what was his fourth visit in just over two months.
On Thursday, he spoke by phone with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to express his concern over Israel’s plans to advance the construction of more than 1,000 homes in annexed east Jerusalem and to discuss peace efforts.
Kerry phoned Abbas on Friday morning and again on Saturday, Palestinian officials said.
“He calls the president almost on a daily basis, and he has held 11 meetings with us during the last two months,” chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erakat told Voice of Palestine radio, saying two of the calls had been in the past 24 hours.
Despite the intensive diplomacy, Kerry had not yet presented any diplomatic initiative and was pushing the Palestinians to return to talks “without conditions.”
“Until now, there is no initiative presented by Kerry,” he said. “He is still in the phase of discussions with us and with the Israelis.
“He is also preparing to accuse us of the failure of the negotiations by asking us to return without conditions,” he charged.
“When we talk about a settlement freeze or the release of prisoners, these are not Palestinian conditions, but Israeli obligations that it needs to fulfil if it really wants to resume the negotiations.”
He also accused Israel of looking to discredit any Palestinian leader who insisted on a state within the lines which existed before the 1967 Six-Day War.
“Any Palestinian who insists on a Palestinian state within the 1967 borders, with Jerusalem as its capital, and on the return of refugees and the release of prisoners, will confront an Israeli position that will not consider him as a real partner,” he said.
Erakat was referring to repeated allegations by top Israeli officials that Abbas is not a partner for peace, including by former foreign minister Avigdor Lieberman, whom he accused of mounting a diplomatic campaign to “get rid” of Abbas.
Meanwhile, Israel’s chief negotiator Tzipi Livni was to fly to Washington on Sunday to address the global forum of the American Jewish Committee.
Kerry is also scheduled to address the conference, with media reports saying the two were to hold fresh talks.