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Kerry, Abbas to hold surprise talks in Saudi

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(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

US Secretary of State John Kerry will meet with Palestinian President Mahmud Abbas in Riyadh on Monday, a state department official told reporters.

Kerry, on his first trip to the region since taking over as the top US diplomat, will have lunch with the Palestinian leader, who arrived unexpectedly in Riyadh on Sunday.

Kerry's tour does not include Israel or the Palestinian territories but he will reportedly accompany US President Barack Obama when he meets Israeli and Palestinian leaders in Jerusalem and Ramallah during a visit on March 20-22,

Abbas "will present the Palestinian point of view to the new US administration ahead of Obama's visit," Palestinian envoy in Riyadh Jamal al-Shawbaki told the official Voice of Palestine radio.

Abbas, in his first meeting with Kerry, will also "highlight Israeli violations in Jerusalem, settlements, and the issue of Palestinian prisoners on hunger strike," said Shawbaki.

Palestinian-Israeli peace talks have been deadlocked for more than two years.

Abbas wants to renew peace talks in tandem with a freeze on Jewish settlement construction in the occupied West Bank and in east Jerusalem.

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http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/afp/130304/kerry-abbas-hold-surprise-talks-saudi