US top diplomat John Kerry heading back to meet Palestinian President Abbas: Officials

RAMALLAH, Palestinian Territories (AFP) - United States Secretary of State John Kerry will return to the Middle East this week to push for Israel-Palestinian peace talks and will meet Palestinian President Mahmud Abbas, a Palestinian official said Monday.

"It is expected that (Palestinian) President Abbas and Kerry will meet in Amman," the official told Agence France-Presse on condition of anonymity.

"We are waiting to see what new ideas Kerry will bring with him after his last tour of the region," he added.

There was no immediate confirmation from Washington of Mr Kerry's reported visit.

However, Egypt's official Mena news agency on Sunday quoted Arab League chief Nabil al-Arabi saying the US Secretary of State would hold talks in the Jordanian capital with a delegation of Arab foreign ministers.

The Palestinian official said he expects Mr Kerry to also visit Jerusalem for talks with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Mr Kerry spent four days in June locked in intensive shuttle diplomacy between the Israeli and Palestinian leadership in a high-profile bid to draw the two sides back into direct negotiations after a gap of nearly three years.

Mr Abbas is pushing Israel to freeze all settlement building activity and to publicly agree to make the lines that existed before the 1967 Middle East war the basis for peace negotiations.

Mr Netanyahu has called for talks without "preconditions", a reference to Palestinian demands which he rejects, instead considering "goodwill gestures" such as the release of prisoners or a partial freeze on settlements.

Mr Abbas said after Mr Kerry's last visit that the Secretary of State had made "useful and constructive proposals", adding he was "optimistic" about the outcome.

But he also said that Mr Kerry's proposals "need further clarification and explanation before we can return to negotiations".