RAMALLAH (Ma’an) – US Secretary of State John Kerry on Thursday wandered the streets of the central West Bank city of al-Bireh, ate shawarma and Palestinian sweets and drank Arabic coffee at a local restaurant.
Kerry’s tour followed a meeting with President Mahmoud Abbas in the latter’s office in Ramallah.
Several officials attended the talks including PLO secretary Yasser Abed Rabbo, Executive Committee member Saeb Erekat, Abbas’ spokesman Nabil Abu Rdeina and a presidential adviser on economic affairs.
Abbas told Kerry the Palestinians were serious about resuming peace negotiations to save the two-state solution. The president also addressed ongoing settlement expansion and settler assaults against the Palestinian people in the West Bank.
Kerry arrived in the region Thursday as he kept up a push to bring Israelis and Palestinians back to peace negotiations amid a growing skepticism over his efforts.
Making his fourth trip since he began his tenure in February, Kerry headed straight into talks with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu before travelling to Ramallah.
Israel's top negotiator and Justice Minister Tzipi Livni said Thursday the government is divided on the issue of peace with the Palestinians.
"There are ideological differences at the heart of the government," Livni told public radio.
The stalling of the peace process since September 2010 "only serves the interests of those think that each passing day (without a peace agreement) allows them to build a new house," she said, in reference to Jewish settlement building on Palestinian territory, a key issue preventing a return to talks.
"But this is not the position of the majority of Israel's population," she added.
Kerry's meetings come after a long day of diplomacy in Jordan, during which he met with 10 other foreign ministers from the "Friends of Syria" group in a bid to try to end the Syrian conflict.
Kerry has been back and forth to the region to push for the resumption of peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians.
After whirlwind talks Thursday and Friday, he will return to the region on Monday to attend the World Economic Forum in Amman.
He has been seeking to put together a plan for the economic revival of the West Bank and it is possible he could unveil his ideas at the forum.