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Kerry to meet Arab ministers on peace process

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(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

US Secretary of State John Kerry was Monday to host talks with Arab League officials as part of a painstaking process aimed at revitalizing the Middle East peace process.

Kerry has already devoted time and energy to trying to find a way to bring all sides back to the negotiating table since taking office on February 1.

He has traveled three times to the region, meeting senior Israeli and Palestinian officials as well as Egyptian, Saudi, Jordanian, and Qatari leaders, seeking to end the stalemate in the peace process which collapsed in late 2010.

The new top US diplomat has suggested the Arab Peace Initiative, unveiled in 2002 by Saudi Arabia under which 22 Arab countries would normalize ties with Israel in return for Israeli withdrawal from occupied lands, could map out a way forward.

"We welcome the Arab League's eagerness to play a constructive role in the pursuit of a durable and lasting Middle East peace," deputy acting State Department spokesman Patrick Ventrell told journalists.

The talks -- to be held away from the cameras in Blair House, just a short walk from the White House, and not in the usual, more transparent State Department offices -- came after "a series of productive conversations by the secretary to explore how we can best move regional peace efforts forward."

Although a full list of participants had yet to be released, Ventrell confirmed that Qatari Prime Minister Hamad bin Jassim, chair of the Arab Peace Initiative follow-up committee, was heading the delegation.

The talks were also expected to delve into new proposals from Kerry to help economic development on the West Bank -- a scheme in which he is hoping to attract private sector investment to boost Palestinian trust.

But Ventrell again cautioned Kerry was not planning to lay out any proposals to the Arab League nations.

"This is more about hearing from them and their perspective on the path forward and some of their opinions," he said.

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http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/afp/130429/kerry-meet-arab-ministers-peace-process