US Secretary of State John Kerry urges return 'to basics' on Jerusalem holy sites

 Muslim worshippers pray in front of the Dome of the Rock on the compound known to Muslims as Noble Sanctuary and to Jews as Temple Mount, in Jerusalem's Old City during Eid al-Adha last month.
Muslim worshippers pray in front of the Dome of the Rock on the compound known to Muslims as Noble Sanctuary and to Jews as Temple Mount, in Jerusalem's Old City during Eid al-Adha last month. PHOTO: REUTERS

WASHINGTON (AFP) - US Secretary of State John Kerry said Tuesday he will engage Israeli and Palestinian leaders on the "basics" of administering Jerusalem's holy sites to try to calm tempers in the city.

Kerry is expected to meet Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas and Jordan's King Abdullah separately in coming days for talks on the latest round of violence.

On the agenda will be the administration of the Haram al-Sharif and the Temple Mount in Jerusalem, holy sites that have been a flashpoint in the recurrent clashes between Israeli forces and Palestinian protesters.

"We could meet if we chose to but I think that meeting together in the same country, this is not the moment, obviously," Kerry said, at a green investment forum in Washington.

"But I will be meeting with Prime Minister Netanyahu either in Germany or in the region. I will be meeting with President Abbas. I'll be meeting with King Abdullah and others," he said.

The State Department has not finalised Kerry's travel plans for the week, but reports have suggested he could meet Netanyahu in Berlin then continue to Amman for talks with Abbas and King Abdullah.

"We will go back to some very basics here with respect to what the expectations are with the administration of the Haram al-Sharif and the Temple Mount and hopefully open up enough political space to begin to move on some other areas," he said.

"I think we have to have very careful expectations. I think we have to be very, very aware of the sensitivities that have built up now everywhere and so we have to move carefully."

Kerry did not go into detail about how he would like to see the holy sites, which are revered by both Muslims and Jews, administered.