U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry urged Palestinian Authority (PA) Chairman Mahmoud Abbas on Sunday "to make the tough decisions that will be necessary" before an April 29 deadline for a peace deal with Israel, Reuters reported, citing a U.S. official.
Kerry’s comments were made during a meeting with Abbas in Washington, a day before the PA Chairman will meet President Barack Obama at the White House.
"The secretary thanked President Abbas for his steadfast leadership and partnership over the past few months and encouraged him to make the tough decisions that will be necessary in the weeks ahead," a senior State Department official told Reuters after the meeting.
"He also reiterated that we are at a pivotal time in the negotiations and while these issues have decades of history behind them, neither party should let tough political decisions at this stage stand in the way of a lasting peace," the official added, describing Sunday's talks as "frank and productive."
Kerry brought Israel and the PA back into negotiations on July 29 and said at the time that "our objective will be to achieve a final status agreement over the course of the next nine months."
As the April 29 deadline approaches, U.S. officials have scaled back their ambitions and are now trying to push the sides to sign a "framework agreement" of which few details have thus far been made public.
Kerry recently admitted he would not be successful in securing a full peace deal by the April deadline and is hoping to use the framework to extend talks.
Kerry has remained optimistic about the talks throughout the process, stating in December that a deal was "close" despite ongoing complications and dispute over the terms from both the PA and Israel.
A close aid to Abbas recently said that the gaps between the sides have only widened and added that an extension of talks was unlikely and pointless.
The Al-Hayat newspaper reported on Sunday night that Abbas is planning to condition an extension of talks on Israel releasing two arch terrorists and freezing construction in Judea and Samaria.
Abbas plans to make these demands during his meeting with Obama, the newspaper said.