AMMAN, Jordan – Secretary of State John Kerry broke from a visit to Italy on Wednesday to try to salvage Israeli-Palestinian peace talks, even as Arab leaders declared they would never meet Israel’s core demand to be recognized as a Jewish state.
Kerry flew to Jordan to ask Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas to commit to extending the negotiations, just days before Israel was supposed to release a final group of Palestinian prisoners as a confidence-building gesture.
Before it releases the prisoners, Israel wants to be assured that Abbas won’t abandon the U.S.-brokered talks, which resumed in July after a three-year break. Having initially set next month as the target date for a peace accord, Kerry is now trying to get the sides to a agree to a framework for further negotiations.
Kerry began his visit to Amman by meeting Jordan’s King Abdullah, another Israeli-Palestinian mediator. He also spoke with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, by telephone, during the three-hour flight from Rome, U.S. officials said.