AMMAN, Jordan (AP) — U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry was meeting Friday with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and planned to return to Jerusalem for more talks with the Israelis as he continues his latest round of Mideast diplomacy in an effort to get both sides back to the negotiating table.
Kerry was using Amman as a base for the talks. He drove to Jerusalem Thursday night for a dinner meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that lasted about four hours.
He and his delegation returned to Amman early Friday. Around noon, he drove to a diplomatic area of Amman for a luncheon with Abbas.
“It’s good to be back and I look forward to our conversation. We have a lot to talk about, obviously, as you know,” Kerry told Abbas.
As reporters and photographers were ushered out of the meeting, Kerry turned to Abbas and said: “We had a good long meeting.” It was an apparent reference to his meeting with Netanyahu the night before. “We’re going back.”
State Department officials have said little about the details of the talks. It was clear from the travel schedule given to the delegation that Kerry was going to go back to Jerusalem, but State Department officials wouldn’t confirm the return trip.
It, however, was one of the first things Kerry told Abbas as the two men sat down to talk.
Kerry, who is on a two-week swing through the Mideast and Asia, left Amman on Thursday evening in a convoy of nearly a dozen vehicles for the roughly 90-minute drive to Jerusalem. A Jordanian military helicopter flew over his convoy during the trip, according to a reporter who was allowed to make the trip with Kerry and his delegation.
Netanyahu was about an hour late, apparently telling Kerry that he was delayed because he had been attending a graduation ceremony for Israeli military pilots. They talked mostly one-on-one, but advisers also were present for some of the discussion, which began around 9:30 p.m. local time in a suite at a hotel in Jerusalem and ended around 1:30 a.m. Friday.
The State Department released the dinner menu — fish ceviche and a main course of red tuna and sea bream over lentils and mushrooms — but offered no detailed information about their talks. The State Department said only that the two had a “productive, in-depth and wide-ranging conversation” and that Kerry reiterated his commitment to working with all parties to achieve a two-state solution.
There was no readout from the Israelis.
State Department officials say Kerry will continue to try to find common ground between the two sides that would lead to a re-launching of negotiations. On this trip, Kerry is trying to pin down precisely what conditions Abbas and Netanyahu have for resuming talks and perhaps discuss confidence-building measures.