AMMAN, Jordan — U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry stepped up his drive today to get Israelis and Palestinians back to the negotiating table, facing Palestinian reluctance over his formula for resuming peace talks after nearly five years.
Kerry held more than 90 minutes of talks this morning with chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat in the Jordanian capital Amman, then was planning to meet Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in the West Bank town of Ramallah, a U.S. official said.
Kerry’s helicopter trip to Ramallah was delayed for at least two hours. No explanation was given, and the U.S. diplomat continued phone contacts in the meantime. Still, a Palestinian official confirmed that Kerry was set to meet Abbas later today. Both officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to brief reporters.
At a stormy late-night meeting of their leadership Thursday, Palestinians balked at dropping a main condition for talks with the Israelis. They demand a guarantee that negotiations on borders between a Palestinian state and Israel would be based on the cease-fire line that held from 1949 until the 1967 war, when Israel captured the West Bank, Gaza Strip and east Jerusalem. Israel withdrew from Gaza in 2005.
Israel rejects preconditions on the talks, and the split casts a cloud of uncertainty over months of U.S. mediation efforts.
Hoping to push Israelis and Palestinians toward talks, President Barack Obama asked Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to work with Kerry “to resume negotiations with Palestinians as soon as possible,” according to a statement released by the White House late Thursday.