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Kerry holds fresh talks with Abbas in West Bank

US Secretary of State John Kerry on Friday traveled to the West Bank in an bid to persuade President Abbas to resume peace talks with Israel. This comes after the Palestinians rejected the terms of his latest proposal.

Kerry flew to the West Bank from Jordan in one of two Puma helicopters lent by the Jordanian king. He met for around an hour with Palestian President Mahmoud Abbas, before returning to Jordan.

No details of the talks were given.

It was not immediately clear whether the trip meant that Kerry had made progress during talks with chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat in Jordan earlier in the day.

"It seemed Kerry wanted to hear more from the (Palestinian) president," an unnamed senior Palestinian official told the Reuters news agency. Further details about Kerry's meeting with Erekat were initially not made available.

Kerry's meetings with Erekat and Abbas followed a heated meeting of Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) leaders in Ramallah on Thursday, in which they agreed to reject Kerry's latest proposal for restarting the talks.

Settlement halt demanded

Negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians ground to a halt in late 2010 in a dispute over Israeli settlement construction in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem territories. Since then, Palestinians have repeatedly demanded that before they return to the table, Israel freeze all settlement construction in the two territories, which it captured in 1967.

This appeared to be the sticking point that led the Palestinians to reject Kerry's proposal.

"There is a general tendency among PLO (Palestinian Liberation Organization) officials to reject resuming negotiations before Israel recognises the 1967 borders as a base for the peace process and for it to end settlement activity," one of the officials at Thursday's meeting, Qais Abdel-Karim, told the Reuters news agency.

Israel has repeatedly rejected this demand, calling on the Palestinians to return to the negotiating table with no preconditions.

pfd/ipj (Reuters, AFP, AP)