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Kerry cancels trip to Ramallah: US

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry (L) and Toria Nuland, Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs, take their seats across from Turkey's Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu (R) during a meeting at NATO headquarters in Brussels April 1, 2014. (REUTERS/Jacquelyn Martin/Pool)

BRUSSELS: US Secretary of State John Kerry cancelled plans to travel Wednesday to Ramallah after both the Israelis and the Palestinians announced moves likely to scuttle the peace talks.

"We are no longer travelling tomorrow," a senior State Department official said, shortly after Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas said the Palestinians would seek membership of 15 UN agencies.

Israel also announced new tenders for housing settlements.

Under the terms of a July accord for resuming the talks after a three-year break, both sides had vowed not to take such moves for nine months.

Israel has also failed to release this weekend as agreed a fourth and final group of Palestinian prisoners, ahead of an April 29 deadline for a peace deal.

Kerry called on both sides to show restraint, after holding more than four hours of talks with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on a surprise trip late Monday to Israel.

But Kerry told a press conference after taking part in talks on Ukraine at NATO that he was not sure yet whether he would return to the Middle East region as had been announced only hours earlier.

"My team is on the ground meeting with the parties even tonight," the top US diplomat said.

"We urge both parties to show restraint," he added.

Asked if he was going back to Israel and the region, he replied: "I'm not sure I'm going.... We have certain things we are trying to figure out in terms of the logistics on the ground and what is possible."

US officials said Kerry had already talked with Netanyahu following Abbas's announcement, and planned to call the Palestinian leader as well later Tuesday.

But the chief US diplomat, who has been working for months to try to broker an elusive peace deal, insisted it was too early to draw any conclusions on the fate of the process.

"It is completely premature tonight to draw... any final judgement about today's events and where things are. This is a moment to be really clear-eyed and sober about this process," Kerry said.

"It is difficult, it is emotional, it requires huge decisions, some of them with great political difficulty, all of which need to come together simultaneously.

"Obviously it's moments like this where we all need to remember exactly what brought us to this effort in the first place, what the goal is and where everybody wants to end up."

 

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Summary

US Secretary of State John Kerry cancelled plans to travel Wednesday to Ramallah after both the Israelis and the Palestinians announced moves likely to scuttle the peace talks.

Under the terms of a July accord for resuming the talks after a three-year break, both sides had vowed not to take such moves for nine months.

Kerry called on both sides to show restraint, after holding more than four hours of talks with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on a surprise trip late Monday to Israel.

US officials said Kerry had already talked with Netanyahu following Abbas's announcement, and planned to call the Palestinian leader as well later Tuesday.


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