The latest round of talks between Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and US Secretary of State John Kerry in Amman on Wednesday were "constructive," a US official said Thursday.
Kerry broke off from his visit to Rome with President Barack Obama to rush to Jordan for talks with Abbas in a bid to keep the shaky Israeli-Palestinian from derailing. Obama was to meet Thursday with Pope Francis.
Kerry held talks with Jordan's King Abdullah II before a working dinner with Abbas, as he presses his bid to "continue to narrow the gaps" between the two sides, his spokeswoman said.
The US diplomat and his team met for more than four hours with the Palestinian leader, a senior State Department official said.
Describing it as "a constructive conversation," the official added that "the secretary plans to remain engaged with both President Abbas and Prime Minister (Benjamin) Netanyahu over the coming days".
Kerry also spoke by telephone with Netanyahu during the three-hour flight from Rome, US officials said; the two were due to speak against after Kerry had dined with Abbas.
Israel is due to release a fourth and final tranche of prisoners over the weekend, a move which will prove key in deciding whether the talks, resumed in July after a three-year gap, unravel or not.
Under the deal relaunching the peace negotiations, Israel said it would release 104 Arabs held since before the 1993 Oslo peace accords in exchange for the Palestinians not pressing their statehood claims via the UN.
Israel has so far freed 78 prisoners but there are growing Netanyahu's cabinet may block the final releases, particularly of Israeli Arab terrorists. In Jerusalem, about 50 relatives of the victims of terror attacks demonstrated Wednesday near Netanyahu's residence against widening the prisoner releases.
"Justice and values come before politics. We can't reach peace by ignoring the blood of the victims," said Meir Indor, a spokesperson for the families.
Palestinian Minister of Prisoners Affairs Issa Qaraqe told Voice of Palestine radio that "Israel is trying to worm its way out of releasing the prisoners. They will be held responsible for any repercussions of this."
He insisted Israel free all the prisoners.