AMMAN, Jordan (AP) — U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry arrived in Jordan Wednesday in hopes of jump-starting foundering Mideast peace talks just as Arab leaders released a communique saying they will never recognize Israel as a Jewish state.
Kerry flew from Rome to Jordan’s capital, Amman, for a meeting with Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas as negotiations are approaching a critical April 30 deadline for a settlement. But the Palestinians have threatened to walk away before then unless Israel releases a group of prisoners, as it agreed to, by March 29.
Speaking to reporters Wednesday in Kuwait, Abbas said he was still waiting to receive a formal framework proposal from Kerry. He said there have been no talks on extending negotiations beyond the April deadline, adding that the coming month would be “a very important period.”
Wednesday’s announcement by the Arab League, blaming Israel for a lack of progress in the Mideast peace process, puts up another roadblock. The communique, issued at the end of a two-day summit, also rejects “the continuation of settlements, Judaization of Jerusalem and attacks in its Muslim and Christian shrines.”
The League’s announcement that it will not recognize Israel as the homeland of the Jewish people rejects a key demand of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. The Palestinians say such recognition would undermine the rights of Palestinian refugees and Israel’s Arab minority.
State Department deputy spokeswoman Marie Harf said Kerry also will talk with Netanyahu in the next few days.
He met first Wednesday with Jordan’s King Abdullah II before a planned working dinner with Abbas. Kerry will then return to Rome to join President Barack Obama at a meeting Thursday with Pope Francis.