US Secretary of State John Kerry met late Wednesday in London with Palestinian Authority (PA) Chairman Mahmoud Abbas for their first
face-to-face talks since the peace process collapsed last month, US officials said, according to AFP.
The two were meeting in an upscale hotel for what US officials have billed as "informal" talks, seeking to downplay any hopes of a breakthrough in Kerry's ill-fated bid to reach an Israeli-Palestinian Authority (PA) peace deal.
"The door remains open to the peace process. The secretary continues to believe that," a senior State Department official said before Kerry left
Washington. "But the purpose of the meeting is more about our ongoing relationship with the Palestinian people."
Israel suspended peace talks last month, after Abbas approached terrorist organization Hamas for a surprise unity pact. Unity elections are said to be planned for late May.
The White House consistently fosters denial over the collapse of talks, and is still assessing whether to salvage the operation - despite the rumored dismantling of the US negotiating team, the PA's unity pact with Hamas, and Israel's refusal to negotiate with terrorists.
Washington has branded Hamas a terrorist organization since 1993 and has said it must recognize Israel and renounce violence. Top US officials have already warned that a unity government including Hamas members risks seeing a freeze in millions of dollars of US aid; under US law it is forbidden for US funds to be given to blacklisted foreign terrorist groups.
However, the international community has not seemed to reject Abbas himself over the pact with Hamas - despite the fact that Hamas has both been vying for control over the unity government and refused to renounce terror against Israel.