Kerry, Abbas agree to meet, promote peace

RAMALLAH, Palestinian Territories (AFP) - Newly sworn-in US Secretary of State John Kerry telephoned Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas on Sunday and said they should meet on peace efforts, a presidential spokesman said.

Abbas spokesman Nabil Abu Rudeina told the official Palestinian news agency Wafa that the two discussed "the necessity to hold meetings in the near future to talk about a number of issues which help maintain the peace process."

According to Wafa, Mr Kerry assured Mr Abbas that "US President Barack Obama cares about the peace process and supports efforts related to it," and that the US administration was aware of the Palestinians' current financial crisis.

It was the first high-level contact between Mr Obama's new administration and the Palestinian government.

Mr Kerry met with Mr Abbas several times while serving as chairman of the Senate's Foreign Relations Committee.

Last week, in his confirmation hearings, Mr Kerry hinted of new proposals to restart direct peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians, stalled for more than two years.

"We need to try to find a way forward, and I happen to believe that there is a way forward," he said.

"But I also believe that if we can't be successful that the door, or window, or whatever you want to call it, to the possibility of a two-state solution could shut on everybody and that would be disastrous in my judgment."

Both Israel and the Palestinian Authority have theoretically committed themselves to the goal of a "two-state solution," living side-by-side within agreed borders.

The Palestinians say they will not return to negotiations while Jewish settlement building continues on their land. Israel says it will not enter talks while the Palestinians lay down pre-conditions.

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