BEIRUT

Middle East

Kerry holds new Paris talks with Abbas

US Secretary of State John Kerry, left, meets with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas about ongoing peace talks with Israel on Wednesday, Feb. 19, 2014, in Paris. (AP Photo/ Evan Vucci, Pool)

PARIS: US Secretary of State John Kerry met with Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas in Paris on Thursday for their second round of talks in two days.

The two men gathered again with their teams in the upscale Parisian hotel, where Abbas hosted Kerry for dinner late Wednesday, US officials said.

The top US diplomat has spent months trying to get the Israelis and the Palestinians to agree on a framework for resolving their conflict, but the negotiations have shown little sign of progress, with each side blaming the other.

The two men had held an "in-depth discussion about the core issues" on Wednesday "and agreed that it would be beneficial to continue that discussion today," a senior State Department official said.

Little has trickled out about the details of Kerry's peace quest or what could be included in the framework, which is aimed at setting out a vision of the final endgame.

Palestinian ambassador to Paris, Hael al-Fahum, told Voice of Palestine radio that Abbas "had outlined his vision of a peace which is based on international law."

The Palestinian leader also insisted there could be no deal without east Jerusalem as the capital of a state of Palestine and "a resolution of all the issues, in particular security, refugees and the release of prisoners."

Israel is due to release a third tranche of Palestinian prisoners held for decades towards the end of March.

Israeli army radio reported Wednesday that Washington was to demand that Israel implement a partial settlement freeze after Kerry presents his framework.

According to the Israeli daily Maariv, Kerry alluded in an interview with Channel 2 television to the possibility that some settlers who live in areas earmarked for Palestinian sovereignty may not have to leave their homes in a final peace deal.

And despite the tough talks and a barrage of personal attacks he was determined to stay the course, Kerry told the television.

"People who know me know that when I sink my teeth into something, if I get the bit between my teeth, I try to get it done," Maariv quoted him as telling the television station.

Kerry, who has pushed the two sides back to the negotiating table after a three-year gap, has no immediate plans to travel back to Israel after making 11 trips during his first year in office.

But he will likely meet early next month in Washington with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on the sidelines of an annual conference organised by a powerful American-Israeli lobbying group.

Leading Palestinian official Hanan Ashrawi told a visiting delegation from the J-Street American Jewish lobby group that Israel was "wilfully sabotaging" Kerry's efforts particularly with its continued settlement building.

She argued that any peace deal must be founded in international law, and said that J-Street, which represents the Jewish American community, had "the dual challenge of influencing both the US administration and the hardline and extremist Israeli government; for there to be peace and stability, we must move rapidly."

 

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