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Kerry to meet Abbas in West Bank on Nov. 5

Nov. 1, 2013 3:05 P.M. (Updated: Nov. 2, 2013 2:43 P.M.)
RAMALLAH (AFP) -- US Secretary of State John Kerry will meet president Mahmoud Abbas in the West Bank on Tuesday, a Palestinian official said, in an effort to keep peace talks alive.

"The aim of the visit (to the town of Bethlehem) is to contain the huge crisis in peace talks, prompted by Israel's announcement in the last few days of new settlement tenders," the senior Palestinian official told AFP.

"The US administration has not taken any concrete measures against Israel's settlement moves, and maybe this American silence on the issue is what has caused" the step-up in settlement plans, he said on condition of anonymity.

Israel announced on Wednesday it would build 1,500 new settler homes in East Jerusalem, immediately after it released 26 long-serving Palestinian prisoners in line with commitments to the US-brokered peace talks.

Palestinian Authority foreign minister Riyad al-Malki denounced the construction plans and threatened to pursue international legal action in response -- a move the Palestinians had agreed to refrain from during the talks.

Palestine Liberation Organization leaders convened on Thursday in Ramallah, in a session chaired by president Mahmoud Abbas.

"The Palestinian leadership will take a number of steps in the next few days to face the settlement offensive," the PLO's executive said after the meeting.

Kerry, who nudged the sides back to the negotiation table in July after a nearly three-year hiatus, will also visit Israel next week in a bid to bring fresh impetus to the talks.

His visit will be part of a wider regional tour to include meetings on the Syria conflict and an effort to ease tensions with key US ally Saudi Arabia.

The Israeli settlement issue derailed the last round of negotiations in 2010 just weeks after they had started.
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