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Kerry extends Israel trip amid speculation on peace talks

Secretary of State John Kerry (right) spoke to Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (not pictured) during a meeting on Saturday.

REUTERS

Secretary of State John Kerry (right) spoke to Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (not pictured) during a meeting on Saturday.

JERUSALEM — U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry extended his trip to Israel a day amid speculation that he was closing in on a deal to revive the dormant Israeli-Palestinian peace talks.

Reports in the Israeli news media have suggested that a meeting between Israeli and Palestinian officials under American and Jordanian auspices might be announced soon. There has been no comment from U.S. officials, however.

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Kerry’s decision to rip up his itinerary and stay in Israel has heightened expectations of a potential breakthrough.

After canceling a Saturday news conference in Jordan and a planned trip later that day to the United Arab Emirates, Kerry flew by helicopter to Amman, Jordan, for a two-hour meeting with Mahmoud Abbas, the president of the Palestinian Authority, and his senior advisers, including the Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat.

Asked whether he was making progress as the meeting got under way, Kerry replied, “working hard.”

Kerry then headed back to Israel for an evening meeting with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel, his third such meeting in three days. Tzipi Livni, Israel’s minister of justice and the government’s chief negotiator on the Palestinian issue, and Isaac Molho, Netanyahu’s special envoy, were to attend the meeting as well, according to a State Department official.

Kerry is scheduled to fly Sunday to Brunei for a meeting of foreign ministers, and his departure has become an unofficial deadline for showing results.

Kerry has frequently said that time is the enemy, arguing that attitudes harden over time and that unexpected developments can complicate painstaking efforts to lay the basis for progress at the negotiating table.

“Time is the enemy of a peace process,” he said Wednesday during a visit to Kuwait. “The passage of time allows a vacuum to be filled by people who don’t want things to happen.”

On Friday night, Kerry had a Sabbath dinner with Shimon Peres, the Israeli president who won the Nobel Prize in 1994 for his efforts in producing the Oslo Accord and who has been a vocal and enthusiastic supporter of Kerry’s push to revive the Middle East peace process.

Jodi Rudoren contributed reporting.

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