US Secretary of State John Kerry held a two-hour discussion with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas in London late on Wednesday in their first meeting since US efforts to broker an Israeli-Palestinian peace deal collapsed last month.
During the meeting Kerry emphasized that the "door remains open to peace" talks although made clear it was up to the Israelis and Palestinians to take the necessary steps to resume talks, a senior State Department official said.
The official said Kerry urged both the Palestinians and Israelis to "refrain from unhelpful steps."
Abbas also updated Kerry on Palestinian political developments, the official said, referring to plans announced by Abbas last month to reconcile Palestinian factions Fatah and Hamas into a unity government.
Israel suspended peace talks on April 24, furious about Abbas' unexpected unity pact with Hamas.
"Secretary Kerry reiterated the need for any Palestinian government to recognize Israel, commit to non-violence, and abide by previous agreements, and thanked President Abbas for his public commitment to these principles," the State Department official said.
Prior to the meeting, it was reported that Abbas was hoping to persuade the US administration to accept a Palestinian unity government that would be established in accordance with last month’s reconciliation deal between Fatah and Hamas.
Abbas planned to make it clear to Kerry that the proposed government would recognize Israel and reject violence, a senior Palestinian official in Ramallah said.
Noting that this was the first meeting between Kerry and Abbas since the breakdown of the US-sponsored Israeli-Palestinian peace talks, the official said that the new government would report directly to the PA president and would not deal with issues related to the peace process.
“There’s no reason why the Americans should oppose the unity government, because it would consist of independent figures and technocrats,” the official told The Jerusalem Post before the meeting.
“The government would serve for a limited period of six months and its responsibilities would be restricted to day-to-day affairs of the Palestinian public. President Abbas and the PLO are the only ones entitled to conduct peace talks with Israel,” he added.
Another Palestinian official told the Post that he was “optimistic” that the US administration would not stand against the Hamas-Fatah deal.
Khaled Abu Toameh and Herb Keinon contributed to this report.