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'Abbas to Kerry: Push Israel for settlement freeze'
March 4, 2013 17:40
PA official says Abbas urges Kerry to exert pressure on J'lem to release Palestinian prisoners in Saudi Arabia meeting.
Mahmoud Abbas

Abbas 521. (photo credit:Marc Israël Sellem )

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas met in Saudi Arabia Monday with US Secretary of State John Kerry and discussed the latest regional developments, Palestinian officials in Ramallah said.

This was the first meeting of its kind since Kerry replaced Hillary Clinton as secretary of state.

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“The meeting focused on efforts to revive the peace process,” said a Palestinian official. “They also discussed [US] President Barack Obama’s planned visit to the region later this month.”

Another PA official said that during the meeting, Abbas requested that the Obama administration exert pressure on the Israeli government to release scores of Palestinian prisoners and freeze construction in the settlements.

The official quoted Abbas as telling Kerry that unless Israel met these two conditions, the PA leadership would not be able to resume the stalled peace talks.

Abbas, according to the official, complained during the meeting about the PA financial crisis and called on the US and donor countries to help solve the issue.

Abbas also met with Saudi Crown Prince Salman bin Abdul-Aziz during his two-day visit to Riyadh.

Kerry had originally planned to come to Israel during his current tour of key European and Middle East countries, his first trip abroad as secretary of state, but cancelled after Obama announced his own plans to come to Israel.

“No one feels snubbed that Kerry met with Abbas” and did not come to Israel before the Obama visit, one Israeli government official said. Both Israeli and Palestinian officials have travelled to the US in recent weeks to plan for the Obama trip.

Kerry’s meeting with Abbas is an indication that the Obama administration is “doing a lot of planning” before the president’s visit, the official said.

Herb Keinon contributed to this report.
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  • Mahmoud Abbas
  • Peace process
  • john kerry
  • saudi arabia
  • palestinian prisoners
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