AMMAN, Jordan (AP) — U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry arrived in Jordan on Wednesday in hopes of jump-starting foundering Mideast peace talks. But Arab leaders the same day released a communique saying they will never recognize Israel as a Jewish state, a key requirement for Israel.
Kerry flew from Rome to Jordan's capital, Amman, for a meeting with Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas as negotiations are approaching a critical April 30 deadline for a settlement. But the Palestinians have threatened to walk away before then unless Israel releases a group of prisoners, as it agreed to, by March 29.
Speaking to reporters Wednesday in Kuwait, Abbas said he was still waiting to receive a formal framework proposal from Kerry. He said there have been no talks on extending negotiations beyond the April deadline, adding that the coming month would be "a very important period."
Wednesday's announcement by the Arab League blamed Israel for a lack of progress in the Mideast peace process. The communique, issued at the end of a two-day summit, said it would never recognize Israel as a Jewish state, and rejected the continuation of Jewish settlement building in the West Bank and the "Judaization" of Jerusalem. It also condemned attacks in Jerusalem's Muslim and Christian shrines.
The League's announcement that it will not recognize Israel as the homeland of the Jewish people rejects a key demand of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. The Palestinians say such recognition would undermine the rights of Palestinian refugees and Israel's Arab minority.
State Department deputy spokeswoman Marie Harf said Kerry also will talk with Netanyahu in the next few days.
He met first Wednesday with Jordan's King Abdullah II before a planned working dinner with Abbas. Kerry will then return to Rome to join President Barack Obama at a meeting Thursday with Pope Francis.
Associated Press writer Josef Federman in Jerusalem and Hamza Hendawi in Kuwait City contributed to this report.