Kerry talks mark start of US peace drive: Palestinians

RAMALLAH, Palestinian Territories (AFP) - US Secretary of State John Kerry has begun to push for a resumption of peace talks after meetings with the two sides, Palestinian officials said on Sunday.

"Kerry began the US administration's real intervention," a high-ranking official told AFP, speaking on condition of anonymity. "The US push for finding a solution has begun," he added.

Although Mr Kerry accompanied US President Barack Obama on his first official visit to the Holy Land last week, he kept a low profile.

But after Mr Obama left the region on Saturday, Mr Kerry stayed behind and met Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas in Amman then travelled to Jerusalem for talks with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Washington's top diplomat "did not want to impose any ideas for now on the two sides, and has no specific plan as yet," the official said, adding it was "too early to talk about bilateral or even trilateral meetings." The US administration "will, in the next two months, present a plan of action to the two sides for the next political steps," he added.

"We consider Obama and Kerry's visit to have normalised US-Palestinian relations" in the wake of a successful Palestinian bid for upgraded UN recognition that angered Israel and Washington, who said it undermined efforts for bilateral talks.

Meanwhile, Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erakat told AFP Abbas was willing to "resume the peace process based on recognition of the 1967 borders" - the lines which existed before the Six-Day War of 1967.

"It is not possible to resume talks that are not based on these," he said.

During his meeting with Mr Obama, Mr Abbas had ruled out the idea of a partial freeze on Jewish settlement building in the West Bank, Mr Erakat said.

Mr Abbas "rejected freezing settlements outside the (major settlement) blocs," stressing that the latter "posed a danger to the two-state solution, especially the taking over of (annexed) east Jerusalem." If Israel halted all settlement building and recognised the 1967 borders, "it could lead to an immediate resumption of talks," he added.

Mr Abbas also asked Mr Obama to push for the release of more than 1,000 Palestinian prisoners held by Israel, he said.

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