WASHINGTON - US Secretary of State John Kerry will discuss
his effort to revive Israeli-Palestinian peace talks with Arab officials in
Jordan on Wednesday, according to the State Department, which declined to
comment on whether a resumption may be at hand.
Kerry will leave
Washington on Monday night to fly to Amman to see officials from Jordan and the
Arab League, which put forward a peace proposal in 2002 that offered full Arab
recognition of Israel if it gave up land seized in a 1967 war and accepted a
"just solution" for Palestinian refugees.
There is deep skepticism among
diplomats and Middle East analysts that the Israelis and Palestinians are likely
to resume peace talks. Some regard the issue as a sideshow to Syria's civil war,
the Egyptian army's overthrow of President Mohamed Morsi and Iran's suspected
efforts to develop a nuclear weapon.
Still, State Department spokeswoman
Jen Psaki sounded an optimistic note about the chances for peace even though
she, and another senior U.S. official, declined to say whether or not Kerry's
upcoming trip might be decisive.
"The secretary would not be going back
to the region if he did not feel there was an opportunity (for) taking steps
forward in providing an update to representatives of the Arab League ... but
beyond that I don't have any announcements or predictions to make," Psaki said
in a news briefing.
She said Kerry was likely to discuss Syria's civil
war, which has dragged on for more than two years, with the Arab officials. He
was also ready to talk about the current visit to Egypt by his deputy, William
A Palestinian official told Reuters in Ramallah that Palestinian
President Mahmoud Abbas would see Kerry in Amman on Tuesday or Wednesday to
discuss his drive to resume peace talks.
Psaki declined to comment on
whether Kerry would meet Palestinian or Israeli officials, or on speculation
that peace talks, which collapsed in 2010, might be close to
KERRY UPBEAT ON LAST TRIP
Kerry is embarking on his sixth
peace-making journey to the region since he took office on February 1 and his first
foreign trip since his wife suffered a seizure on July 7. Some observers saw
this as a hint that he may have progress to unveil.
Kerry ended his last
trip on an upbeat note, saying he believed "with a little more work the start of
final status negotiations could be within reach" before departing Israel on June
30, leaving two senior aides behind to continue talks.
"It feels to us
that ... he would not be going back so quickly if it was not to seal the deal.
So we feel optimistic," said Jeremy Ben-Ami, president of a group called J
Street, which describes itself as a pro-Israel, pro-peace
Israeli-Palestinian peace-making broke down in a dispute over
building Israeli settlements in the West Bank and east Jerusalem, which
the Palestinians want for an independent state.
Abbas has said that, for
new talks to be held, Israeli President Benjamin Netanyahu must freeze the
settlements and recognize the West Bank's boundary before its capture by Israel
in the 1967 Middle East war as the basis for the border of a future
Israel, seeking to keep its settlement blocs under any peace
accord, has balked at those terms.
In Amman, Kerry plans to meet
Jordanian King Abdullah and Foreign Minister Nasser Judeh.
he was expected to see representatives from the same Arab League group that he
last met on April 29, which included officials from Bahrain, Egypt, Jordan,
Lebanon, Qatar and Saudi Arabia, a senior US official told
Kerry has sought to ensure that any new peace process would
have the backing of the Arab states, who, if they were to offer Israel a
comprehensive peace, hold a powerful card that could provide an incentive for
Israel to compromise.
The core issues that must be settled in the
dispute, which has lasted six decades, include borders, the fate of Palestinian
refugees, the future of Jewish settlements on the West Bank and the status of