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Abbas, Kerry to hold second Paris meeting

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JERUSALEM (JTA) — U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas agreed to meet for a second day to discuss core issues in the Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations.

Kerry and Abbas met for two hours on Wednesday evening  in Paris, where they “had an in-depth discussion about the core issues” surrounding a peace deal and agreed to continue the discussion on Thursday, according to news reports citing an unnamed senior State Department official.

Kerry reportedly will present in the coming weeks a framework agreement for continuing the nine-month U.S.-brokered peace negotiations, which currently are scheduled to end on April 29.

Deputy State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf, told reporters Wednesday night in Vienna that recent remarks by chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat, including suggesting that Israel is planning an incursion into Gaza to take the focus off of the peace negotiations, and that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is hoping for Abbas’ assassination, are “unhelpful.”

“The secretary will make clear that these kind of comments are disappointing, that they are unhelpful, especially coming from someone involved in the negotiations, indeed the lead negotiator,” Harf told reporters.

She would not address Israeli news reports that Kerry’s proposal will include a request that the Israeli government freeze all construction in settlements outside of the large blocs of communities that Israel intends to keep in a final status deal.

When asked to clarify whether the official U.S. position recognizes Israel as a Jewish state, Harf replied that it does. She cited President Barack Obama’s Sept. 24, 2013 speech to the United Nations General Assembly, when Obama said: “I’ve made it clear that the United States will never compromise our commitment to Israel’s security, nor our support for its existence as a Jewish state.”

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