United States Secretary of State John Kerry met with senior Palestinian officials on Thursday to discuss the possibility of reviving peace talks with Israel, as well as President Barack Obama’s planned visit next month to Israel and the West Bank.
Saeb Erekat, the top negotiator for the Palestinian Authority, and Mohammed Eshtaya, a member of the PA’s negotiating team, presented Kerry, who took office earlier this month, with the Palestinian conditions to resume negotiations with Israel. These include an end to construction in Jewish settlements and the release of Palestinian prisoners from Israeli jails.
Erekat was also scheduled to meet with David Hale, the top US official handling Middle East peace talks, the State Department said in a statement Wednesday, adding that “other meetings may also be arranged.”
The State Department announced last week that Kerry would not be visiting Israel and the West Bank as part of his first official trip overseas next week, a jam-packed travel agenda that includes meetings in nine nations across Europe and the Middle East.
Obama is scheduled to arrive in Israel on March 20 for a three-day work trip, during which he will meet with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and PA President Mahmoud Abbas to discuss regional matters, including stopping Iran’s nuclear program, the stalled peace process, and the situation in Syria.
Earlier in February, Netanyahu’s special envoy to negotiations with the Palestinians, Yitzhak Molcho, and National Security Adviser Yaakov Amidror flew to Washington and met with administration officials to lay the groundwork for the trip. The two held talks about both the technical and the substantial aspects of Obama’s upcoming visit.