Kerry prolongs Mideast trip amid hopes of breakthrough

Kerry prolongs Mideast trip amid hopes of breakthrough
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry is greeted by Chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat in Jordan.

AMMAN, Jordan - US Secretary of State John Kerry has prolonged his Middle East visit, an official said Thursday, amid signs of progress in his efforts to kickstart direct talks between Israel and the Palestinians.

"Secretary Kerry will remain in Amman on Thursday night to determine if there is additional work that requires his presence before he returns to the United States," the State Department official said.

In a further sign of a possible breakthrough in Kerry's intense diplomatic efforts to get the Israelis and Palestinians back to the negotiating table after a three-year break, Israeli army radio said Thursday the military is preparing to lift some restrictions on Palestinian movement in the West Bank.

"It appears that in the next few days the future of negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians will be determined," army radio's reporter for the Palestinian territories reported.

"In the light of security assessments, two roads in the territories are expected shortly to be opened to Palestinian traffic; one north of Ramallah and one close to Beit Haggai," he added, referring to a settlement near the southern West Bank city of Hebron.

The radio quoted the military spokesman's office as saying that the plans were a gesture for the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan and not linked to peace efforts.

The gestures come as Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas prepared to meet senior members of his Palestine Liberation Organisation in the West Bank city of Ramallah later on Thursday to brief them on his meetings in Jordan with Kerry, a Palestinian official said.

Kerry, who was due to end his visit to Jordan on Thursday, was awaiting the outcome of that meeting before deciding his next step, a US official indicated.

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