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      Kerry Announces Unplanned Visit to Saudi Arabia

      Previously unannounced visit on Sunday intended for consultation on progress in Israeli-Palestinian peace talks.
      By Gil Ronen
      First Publish: 1/4/2014, 6:38 PM

      Binyamin Netanyahu and John Kerry in Jerusalem
      Binyamin Netanyahu and John Kerry in Jerusalem
      Flash 90

      US Secretary of State John Kerry said he will make a previously unannounced visit to Saudi Arabia on Sunday to consult its king on progress in Israeli-Palestinian peace talks.

      "Tomorrow I will go to Jordan to meet with King Abdullah (II) and Foreign Minster Nasser Judeh, and from there I will fly to Saudi Arabia where I will meet with (Saudi) King Abdullah in order to talk about where we are and what we're trying to do in the days ahead," he said on Saturday after talks with Palestinian Authority (PA) head Mahmoud Abbas in Ramallah.

      "I remain hopeful, as I have been, and I am confident that the talks we have had in the last two days have already fleshed out, and even resolved certain kinds of issues and presented new opportunities for others," Kerry said in a news conference with PA  negotiator Saeb Erekat.

      Kerry held fresh talks Saturday with Abbas, seeking to brush aside bitter Israeli-Palestinian recriminations and advance difficult peace negotiations.

      After five months of mostly sticking to pledges not to air their grievances in public, the mutual distrust between the two sides has burst into the open with each accusing the other of trying to scupper the talks.

      US officials have acknowledged that a sought-after agreement on a framework to guide the negotiations forward would not be reached on this trip, signalling that Kerry may return to Israel soon.

      The top US diplomat, who has made it a personal quest to reach a long-elusive peace deal, is on his 10th trip back to the region since becoming secretary of state in March.

      The visit also comes at something of a low point in US-Saudi relations, after a falling out over the Obama administration's foreign policy, particularly over Syria and Iran.

      Back in October, Saudi Arabia rejected a UN Security Council seat, with Riyadh saying the move was in protest to western foreign policy.