US Secretary of State John Kerry will return to Israel late Monday to meet with Israeli and Palestinian leaders in a bid to resuscitate stagnant peace talks, a US official said.
Kerry, who held talks on the Ukraine crisis in Paris with Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov over the weekend, will possibly also hold meetings in Jerusalem and Ramallah over Monday and Tuesday, a senior US official said in France.
Kerry will land in Tel Aviv and meet with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday and PA President Mahmoud Abbas on Tuesday, the official said.
Kerry spoke Monday with leaders from both sides as well as with the White House before deciding to go, an official said.
“Our negotiating team has been working with both parties on the ground to help them agree on a path forward, and Secretary Kerry has kept in close touch with his counterparts by phone,” State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said.
“After consulting with his team, Secretary Kerry decided it would be productive to return to the region,” she said.
“Over the course of the last eight months, the Israelis and Palestinians have both made tough choices, and as we work with them to determine the next steps, it is important they remember that only peace will bring the Israeli and Palestinian people both the security and economic prosperity they all deserve,” Psaki added.
Kerry will presumably be trying to bridge the gaps between the two sides over the conditions for extending talks past the impending April 29 deadline agreed to at the outset.
Earlier, Palestinian Authority spokesman Nabil Abu Rudeineh seemingly put to rest fears that the PA would walk away from peace talks by announcing that they intended to continue negotiations until April 29, the deadline agreed to at the outset of the talks.
The continuation of negotiations had come into question after Israel failed to go through with a previously agreed-upon prisoner release over the weekend and indicated that it has no plans to do so without a deal to extend the deadline.
However, even if the sides can strike a deal, several members of Netanyahu’s ruling coalition, including the Jewish Home party, have said that they will quit the government if the prime minister agrees to release any more prisoners.
Kerry met with Abbas and Jordan’s King Abdullah in Amman last week to discuss Palestinian demands for extending talks.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.