Kerry to Return to Israel Calling Mideast Peace Bid More Serious

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said he will return to the Middle East in two weeks as the Obama administration intensifies efforts to renew Israeli-Palestinian peace talks.

Kerry met with Israeli Justice Minister Tzipi Livni today in Rome and told reporters he plans to return to the region May 21 or 22 to discuss resurrecting the peace process with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.

“We are working through threshold issues,” Kerry said, describing preparatory talks as increasingly serious. The trip will be his fourth to the Middle East since succeeding Hillary Clinton as the top U.S. diplomat in February.

Kerry has said he is pursuing a “quiet strategy” to ease the distrust between Israelis and Palestinians that has prevented Netanyahu and Abbas from meeting in more than two years. Livni, a former foreign minister, joined Netanyahu’s new government in March after being given the formal role of leading peace negotiations with the Palestinians.

The U.S. and other mediators have been unable to get peace talks restarted since Netanyahu declined to extend a 10-month partial settlement freeze in September 2010 and Abbas said he would negotiate only if all building stopped.

Before arriving in Rome, Kerry met yesterday in Moscow with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and said the two governments would push for talks between Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s regime and opposition leaders to curtail fighting and establish a transitional government. More than 70,000 people have been killed since the insurgency against Assad erupted more than two years ago.

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