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Kerry to extend Mideast trip to push peace talks

JERUSALEM (JTA) — U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said he will remain in the Middle East for an extra day to try to salvage foundering Israeli-Palestinian peace talks.

Kerry said in a joint interview with Israeli and Palestinian television networks set to air Thursday evening that he will return to Israel on Friday to meet again with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

On Thursday, Kerry traveled to Jordan for a meeting in Amman with Jordanian officials, as well as a second meeting with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.

In Amman, appearing at a news conference with his Jordanian counterpart, Nasser Judeh, Kerry outlined his changed schedule, and also asked the Palestinians and Israelis to consider the alternative talks.

“I will see President Abbas yet again, and tomorrow morning, as I leave the region, I will have breakfast with Prime Minister Netanyahu,” he said. “And the purpose of this is not just to have a meeting for the sake of a meeting. The purpose is to explore and discuss and examine the various possibilities of how we can resolve very complicated issues in ways that meet the needs of both parties, in ways that lead us to the kind of compromise that will be necessary in order to achieve peace.”

Kerry said there were “obviously tensions” between the sides, but said the alternative to talking could be dire.

“What is the alternative to peace?” he asked. “Prolonged, continued conflict? The absence of peace really means you have a sort of low-grade kind of conflict, war, whatever you want to call it.”

Amman was scheduled to be the last stop on Kerry’s two-day trip to the Middle East.

On Wednesday, Kerry met twice with Netanyahu in Jerusalem and once with Abbas in Bethlehem.

 

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