US top diplomat John Kerry arrives in Jordan for peace talks

AMMAN (AFP) - Top United States diplomat John Kerry met Jordanian leaders on Tuesday on a fresh trip to the Middle East focused on advancing the peace talks amid turmoil in Egypt and Syria.

Arriving on an overnight flight from Washington, the US Secretary of State was first to hold talks with Jordanian Foreign Minister Nasser Judeh before a private dinner in the evening with Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas.

On Wednesday he will meet Jordan's King Abdullah II as well as Arab League officials to "provide an update on Middle East peace", State Department spokesman Jen Psaki told reporters.

Talks will also focus on the political upheaval in Egypt, as violence flared again on the streets of Cairo leaving seven dead and 261 injured, as well as the conflict in Syria, and it was expected that Egypt, a key member of the Arab League, will be sending someone to join the meeting in Amman.

Mr Kerry's plane touched down on Tuesday afternoon in the baking heat of an Amman summer and he climbed into his motorcade to speed through the streets of the Jordanian capital to an upscale hotel on his sixth round of intense diplomacy to kickstart the Israeli-Palestinian peace process.

Since he took office on Feb 1, Mr Kerry has made a search for a long-elusive Middle East peace deal one of the top priorities of his tenure.

But US officials have downplayed hopes that his return to the region signalled that an announcement was pending on a resumption of the talks, which have stalled since September 2010.

"The secretary would not be going back to the region if he did not feel there was an opportunity to keep making steps forward," Ms Psaki said.

But there were no immediate plans for Mr Kerry to meet Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, unlike in previous trips, where he has shuttled between Amman and Jerusalem.