U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas lunched in Riyadh on Monday and chatted about the prospects for peace -- among other topics -- after Abbas showed up "unexpectedly" Sunday in Saudi Arabia.
Described as a "last-minute meeting" the two met at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel in the Saudi capital, together with their delegations. One of the main items of discussion during the meeting was the upcoming visit to the region of U.S. President Barack Obama, set to arrive in Israel on March 20.
“The meeting focused on efforts to revive the peace process,” a PA official told reporters. “They also discussed President Barack Obama’s planned visit to the region later this month.”
Abbas was expected to talk about the “Israeli violations” in Jerusalem, “settlements” and the issue of “Palestinian prisoners on hunger strike,” according to Riyadh-based PA envoy Jamal al-Shawbaki, who spoke with “Voice of Palestine” radio about the impending meeting.
This is Kerry’s first tour of the Middle East since he assumed the post, succeeding Hillary Clinton as Secretary of State.
He opted out of including Israel on his itinerary, indicating it made more sense to wait until Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu had completed his current task of forming a new coalition government.
Kerry is expected to accompany Obama on his upcoming three-day visit to the region, and the two will meet with Israeli and PA Arab leaders in Jerusalem and Ramallah at that time.