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John Kerry extends Mideast diplomacy talks

Secretary of State John Kerry plans to extend his Mideast shuttle diplomacy with one more round of talks with Palestinian and Israeli officials.

The top U.S. diplomat will meet with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in Amman, Jordan, and then return to Jerusalem for discussions that hadn't been scheduled initially, according to a State Department official who asked not to be identified discussing the itinerary.

While Kerry has given no hints publicly about whether he was making progress, the addition of more meetings indicated he saw value in extending the hours of conversations.

On his fifth peace mission in the region since he took office in February, Kerry is trying to bring Israeli and Palestinian officials back to the negotiating table for the first time in almost three years.

The discussions began Thursday with an almost four-hour dinner with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem. Yesterday, Kerry met with Abbas in Amman and then flew back to Jerusalem for three more hours of talks with Netanyahu at the David Citadel Hotel. He ended the day visiting at the presidential residence with Israeli President Shimon Peres, who told him, "All of us admire your investment in creating really the right environment."

While Kerry has said he will set no deadlines for starting a new round of talks, he said Wednesday that some progress toward reviving the process needs to be made "long before September," when the next session of the United Nations General Assembly begins. The assembly recognized a state of Palestine last year, and the Palestinians have threatened to use this status to pursue war-crimes charges against Israel.

Kerry's efforts have been complicated by Israel's continued settlement building in the West Bank and east Jerusalem. Israel approved plans on Wednesday for 69 new homes in a section of Jerusalem captured from Jordan in the 1967 war. Palestinians consider it occupied territory.

The Palestinians have refused to return to talks without a freeze in settlement construction, and they have signaled they might resume their quest at the UN to join the International Criminal Court.


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