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Kerry, Abbas discuss Middle East peace talks

(AP) / 16 May 2014

State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said that during the two-hour meeting, Kerry reiterated US support for the Palestinian people.

US Secretary of State John Kerry worked on Wednesday to keep the Palestinians committed to his hope of restarting Mideast peace talks despite Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’ move to set up an interim government with Hamas.

Kerry met Abbas in a London hotel for the first time since peace negotiations collapsed last month. Kerry, who is in London for talks with international partners about the Syrian war and unrest in Ukraine, said he planned to have an informal meeting with Abbas and that he did not plan to offer any proposals.

State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said that during the two-hour meeting, Kerry reiterated US support for the Palestinian people.

“Secretary Kerry made clear that while the door remains open to peace, it is up to the parties to determine whether they are willing to take the steps necessary to resume negotiations,” she said “He again urged both sides to refrain from unhelpful steps.”

The talks fell apart after nine months of discussions amid one-sided moves by both the Palestinians and Israelis.

Israel promised to, but ultimately did not, release Palestinian prisoners and approved construction of hundreds of new homes in Israeli settlements.

On the Palestinian side, Abbas held off trying to join international agencies and conventions even though the UN General Assembly recognised a “state of Palestine” as a non-member observer in 2012. But in early April, Abbas signed letters to join 15 international conventions, despite a promise that he would refrain from seeking further recognition for Palestine for the duration of the negotiations. The Palestinians also angered Israel by moving to reconcile with Hamas, which has been branded as a terror group by the US.

 It’s the latest in a series of reconciliation attempts since Hamas seized the Gaza Strip from Abbas in 2007, leaving Abbas with parts of the West Bank.

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