Secretary of State John Kerry extended his Middle East peace mission on Saturday, shuttling between Jerusalem and Amman for more talks with Israeli and Palestinian leaders on reviving their stalled negotiations.
But officials on both the feuding sides played down prospects of the bustle bringing about any imminent diplomatic breakthrough.
Cancelling a trip to Abu Dhabi, Kerry flew from Jerusalem to the Jordanian capital for a second meeting with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. He then returned to Jerusalem to see Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for a third time.
Early in the day, an Israeli official said Kerry’s visit could yield an announcement that Israeli and Palestinian delegates would meet under U.S. and Jordanian auspices.
“There is such a possibility, but it is not certain,” the official told Reuters.
But as Kerry headed for his evening meeting with Netanyahu, a member of the latter’s inner circle, Civil Defence Minister Gilad Erdan, sounded less upbeat in a television interview.
Asked whether new direct talks with the Palestinians might be imminent, Erdan told Israel’s Channel Two: “To my regret, no, as of now.”
“To the best of my understanding, Abu Mazen (Abbas) is still demanding the same preconditions, which we have no intention of meeting,” Erdan said.
Peacemaking broke down in 2010 in a dispute over Israeli settlement building in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem, which the Palestinians want for a future independent state.
Abbas has said that, for new talks to be held, Netanyahu must freeze the settlements and recognise the West Bank’s boundary before its capture by Israel in the 1967 Middle East war as the basis for the future Palestine’s border. Israel, seeking to keep settlement blocs under any peace accord, balks at those terms.