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Kerry to return to Mideast next week
US secretary of state to arrive to region January 1 to discuss peace process with Abbas, Netanyahu.
US Secretary of State John Kerry will return to the Middle East on Wednesday to continue diplomacy on the ongoing Israeli-Palestinian peace process.

He will visit Jerusalem to meet with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and  Ramallah to meet with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, the US State Department announced Saturday.

The top US diplomat will discuss the ongoing negotiations between the two sides, among other issues, the State Department said in a statement.

The visit will be Kerry's 10th trip to the Middle East since March.

In an attempt to re-energize the process, Kerry was reportedly intending to present a "framework agreement" to both sides by the end of the month, according to London-based newspaper Asharq Al-Awsat.

Quoting anonymous Arab League sources, the paper reported the agreement will include security measures meant to assuage both sides.

On two visits earlier this month Kerry presented to PA President Mahmoud Abbas and Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu security “ideas” based on the work that a team of some 160 US officials, headed by retired US Marine Corps Gen. John Allen, drew up defining what it thought would be necessary for Israel’s security if a Palestinian state were created.

Last week the US secretary of state said concrete progress has been made in negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians.

"I’m personally encouraged that very tough issues are beginning to take shape in terms of various options that may or may not be available to the leaders to choose between to help resolve it," Kerry said in an interview aired December 15 on ABC's "This Week".

He said that the current round of ongoing talks, which resumed in July, have come at a "different moment" from past efforts, which he hopes leaders will seize to progress work on the ground.

As part of an agreement for resuming talks, Israel told the US of plans to release the next group of Palestinian prisoners on December 30, the State Department said on Friday.

The release of about two dozen prisoners, the third group to be free since the talks resumed in July, are seen by the United States as an important next-step toward reaching an interim peace agreement by April.

Reuters contributed to this report.
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