Kerry, Abbas to meet for first time since talks collapsed

US Secretary of State John Kerry will meet Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas in London this week, the first time since peace talks collapsed last month, officials said Monday.

"Secretary Kerry will meet with president Abbas in London on Thursday," State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said in a statement, having earlier denied the two men had scheduled talks.

"While the door remains open to a peace process, the purpose of the meeting is to discuss our ongoing relationship with the Palestinians," she said.

Earlier, a Palestinian official told AFP that the "meeting will discuss a possible resumption of negotiations with Israel."

Kerry will be in London for a meeting on Thursday about the three-year conflict in Syria.

The top US diplomat in July dragged the Israelis and Palestinians back to the negotiating table, ending a three-year freeze in negotiations.

But his peace efforts derailed even before an April 29 deadline, with Palestinian and Israeli leaders exchanging recriminations and reneging on commitments made during nine months of fruitless meetings.

"The meeting could be the last attempt by Kerry to revive negotiations," the Palestinian official said, asking to remain anonymous.

Kerry last met Abbas in Amman in late March, and had planned to return to Ramallah for further talks a few days later when Israel made a surprise announcement of plans for 700 new settlements and refused to release a last tranche of Palestinian prisoners.

Angered by the move, Abbas hastily decided to seek membership of 15 UN conventions.

Both moves broke the terms of the July deal, and a frustrated Kerry flew back home from Europe without returning to Israel.

Only days later, Israel suspended its participation in the peace negotiations, infuriated as Abbas unveiled plans to set up a Palestinian unity government with Islamic Hamas militants who run the Gaza Strip.

The April 23 deal between the Palestine Liberation Organization, dominated by Abbas's Fatah party, was also denounced by Washington, which has insisted that Hamas must renounce violence and recognize the existence of Israel.

Should the peace talks resume, Kerry believes both sides must work on the future contours of a Palestinian state and security arrangements for Israel alongside other core issues such as refugees and Jerusalem, his chief negotiator Martin Indyk said last week.

Israeli security took precedence throughout much of the last talks, overshadowing the issues of future borders, Palestinian refugees and the fate of Jerusalem.

"As he has throughout the process, Secretary Kerry will reiterate a call he has made to both sides to maintain restraint and refrain from steps that would be unhelpful," Psaki said.