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July 17, 2013

Kerry Meets With Senior Arab League Officials

by VOA News

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry has briefed senior Arab League officials and plans another meeting with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas as the U.S. official continues a push to restart peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians.

The top U.S. diplomat is scheduled to meet with Abbas late Wednesday in Amman, Jordan, their second meeting in two days.

This is Kerry's sixth trip to the region since becoming U.S. secretary of state earlier this year. He has made re-starting the Israeli-Palestinian negotiations - which last collapsed in 2010 - one of his top priorities. He said talks last month with both sides had produced real progress.

Earlier Wednesday, Kerry discussed his efforts with the Arab League chief and representatives of Arab States that support a comprehensive peace plan.   
The discussions also covered the rising tensions in Egypt and the crisis in Syria.

Kerry is weighing a possible visit to a Syrian refugee camp in Jordan before his trip ends. He would be the most senior U.S. official to survey the refugee situation, which has strained host countries like Jordan.

Following the meeting with Kerry on Tuesday, the Palestinian president said he will not negotiate with Israel until it suspends Jewish settlement construction on occupied land in the West Bank and East Jerusalem - areas Palestinians claim for an independent state.

Meanwhile, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu Tuesday criticized new European Union guidelines that ban the bloc's member states from funding Israeli settlements in Palestinian territories.

During an emergency ministerial meeting, Netanyahu said Israel will not accept any "external edicts" about its borders. He said decisions about Israel's land can be resolved only through direct talks with the Palestinians.

Palestinian officials welcomed the EU guidelines. They believe a future border with Israel should be based on the lines that existed before the 1967 Arab-Israeli war.