AMMAN U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry launched a new round of Middle East diplomacy on Tuesday but crises in Egypt and Syria threatened to overshadow his bid to restart stalled Israeli-Palestinian peace talks.
On his sixth trip to the region in as many months as America's top diplomat, Kerry traveled to Amman to see Arab foreign ministers and update them on his efforts to get the Israelis and Palestinians back to the negotiating table. However, unlike his previous visits, he had no plans to travel to Israel or the Palestinian Authority and U.S. officials dampened expectations that there would be any kind of breakthrough or announcement on resuming direct talks.
Kerry was meeting on Tuesday with Jordanian Foreign Minister Nasser Judeh and then having a private one-on-one dinner with Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas, who has a home in Amman. On Wednesday in the Jordanian capital, Kerry is to see the foreign ministers of Arab League nations that support a comprehensive Arab-Israeli peace plan first proposed by Saudi Arabia as well as Jordan's King Abdullah.
Kerry has spent hours with Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu trying to set the stage for a return to peace talks that foundered and collapsed in 2008. Kerry insists that progress has been made but there have been few, if any, discernible signs that the two sides are getting closer to agreeing to discuss the major issues that divide them.
In addition to briefing the Arab ministers on the Israeli-Palestinian front, Kerry will also be talking with them about the latest developments in Egypt since the military ouster of the country's first democratically elected president and deteriorating conditions in Syria, where opposition forces appear to be losing ground to President Bashar Assad's regime.
Kerry is due to return to the U.S. on Thursday.