Kerry and Abbas Meet in London
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry met Palestinian Authority (PA) Chairman Mahmoud Abbas in London on Sunday, AFP reports.
Kerry insisted earlier that Israelis and PA Arabs were determined to pursue direct peace talks, which restarted last month after shuttle diplomacy by the top American diplomat.
Kerry and Abbas, who have met regularly over the last six months, kicked off their latest talks at 7:30 p.m. local time. According to AFP, the two laughed and joked in the Queen Elizabeth room of London's Ritz Carlton hotel before heading off for their closed-door meeting.
No details were due to be released to the press.
The United States' top diplomat arrived in London late afternoon following a stop-off in Paris, which was dominated by the ongoing crisis in Syria and the proposed U.S.-France military response.
"Despite tough decisions that have to be made and despite pressure that exists on both sides... both the Palestinians and Israelis have remained steadfast in their commitment to continuing the talks," Kerry said in Paris after a meeting with Arab League officials.
Kerry also said he planned to meet Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu "shortly" to discuss peace efforts.
In regards to the talks with Arab League officials, Kerry said, "We all of us agreed that a final status agreement is important in enhancing regional security and stability throughout the Middle East."
Direct talks between Israel and the PA resumed on July 29, and the two sides have since met three times in August and in early September in Jerusalem.
Kerry asked both sides to keep the details of the negotiations secret in order to give the process a chance to work and, while Israeli officials have remain tight-lipped about the talks, PA officials have made several leaks to the press.
Last Wednesday, a PA official said that during the negotiations, Israel agreed to a wholesale deportation of thousands of Jews from Judea and Samaria and the transfer of their property to PA Arabs. However, the PA official who reported on that Israeli offer added that the PA side had rejected it as not going far enough.
That Israeli offer was reportedly made as part of a proposal to create a "Palestinian state" in Judea and Samaria along interim borders, pending a final-status agreement. Those rumors have alarmed Jewish residents of Judea and Samaria, who fear that such an arrangement will put their lives in danger.
In an earlier leak to the press, the PA's chief negotiator , Saeb Erekat, told an Arabic radio station that the US has guaranteed the PA all of its key preconditions in advance of negotiations.
Qatari Foreign Minister Khaled al-Attiyah on Sunday criticized Israel for continuing to build Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria, saying it was damaging peace efforts.
"We are talking about the settlements, what we noticed is that each time a round of negotiations is to start it's preceded by an announcement of settlements," he said, according to AFP.
This "directly affects the negotiations", Attiyah claimed.
Ahead of the first bilateral meetings in Jerusalem on August 14, Israel announced plans to build more than 2,000 Jewish homes in Judea and Samaria. The move angered PA negotiators, despite the fact that they were informed of the building prior to the latest round of talks, and despite the fact that the construction will take place in areas which even the PA has accepted in previous negotiations will be within Israeli borders.