Kerry in region with peace talks on agenda
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry steps off his plane upon his arrival at Queen Alia International Airport in Amman, July 16, 2013. REUTERS PhotoIn Amman, Kerry was due to meet a delegation from the Arab League as well as Jordanian leaders and Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas.
On Wednesday he is due to meet Jordan's King Abdullah II and Foreign Minister Nasser Judeh, as well as Arab League officials to "provide an update on Middle East peace," State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki told reporters.
Talks will also focus on the political upheaval in Egypt and the conflict in Syria, and it was expected that Egypt, a key member of the Arab League, will be sending someone to join the meeting in Amman.
A Palestinian official told AFP that Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas will meet Kerry in Jordan on Wednesday.
"It is expected that (Palestinian) president Abbas and Kerry will meet in Amman," the official told AFP on condition of anonymity. "We are waiting to see what new ideas Kerry will bring with him after his last tour of the region." A senior State Department Official said Kerry "will have a private dinner with
President Abbas." The full details of the trip were not yet finalised, according to Psaki.
Another US official said it was not known who would represent the interim Egyptian government following the July 3 ouster of Mohamed Morsi.
Since he took office on February 1, Kerry has made a search for a long-elusive Middle East peace deal one of the top priorities of his tenure.
But US officials were quick to downplay hopes that his return to the region signalled that an announcement was pending on a resumption of the talks, which have stalled since September 2010.
Psaki said however: "The secretary would not be going back to the region if he did not feel there was an opportunity to keep making steps forward." Last month Kerry spent four days locked in intensive shuttle diplomacy seeking to coax the two sides to end a nearly three-year stalemate, and said "with a little more work, the start of final status negotiations could be within reach." He left behind a team of top US officials who have been working to remove the last hurdles to fresh talks.
"They wouldn't be there continuing those conversations if the secretary didn't feel there was a path forward, so that's why they've been on the ground," a senior US official, asking to remain anonymous, told reporters.
Kerry had been expected to return to the region last week, but had to call off the trip after his wife suffered a seizure. She is recovering in a rehabilitation hospital.