U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry met Sunday with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas for the third time in three days, trying to press the restart button on talks between Israel and the Palestinians to end their long-running conflict.
Kerry is in his fourth day of Mideast shuttle diplomacy, holding meetings with both sides in hopes of getting them back to the negotiating table.
There is deep skepticism that Kerry can get the two sides to agree on a two-state solution. It’s something that’s eluded presidents and diplomats for years. But the flurry of meetings has heightened expectations the two sides can be persuaded to restart talks, which broke down in 2008.
The meeting at the Palestinian presidential compound in Ramallah began shortly after 11 a.m. with small talk about a 23-year-old male wedding singer from a Gaza refugee camp who recently won the Arab world’s top TV contest. Mohammed Assaf was crowned “Arab Idol” last week and Abbas portrayed the singer’s victory as an achievement for all Palestinians.
Street celebrations and fireworks erupted across the West Bank and Gaza after he was named the winner.
“I heard you watched television, you watched the show,” a cheerful Kerry told Abbas.
“All the time until he succeeded,” Abbas said.
“It’s a big deal. … It was a lot of fun to watch. It was nice to see everybody feeling good, coming out, celebrating,” he said.
A reporter asked Kerry how the talks were progressing, but the secretary only waved, ending the photo-op.