Washington (AFP) - Amid tense ties between Israel and the United States, top US diplomat John Kerry will meet the chief Palestinian negotiator Monday to discuss how to advance the frozen peace process.
Kerry will welcome a Palestinian delegation, lead by Saeb Erakat, to the State Department for discussions on "the way forward" in a Middle East peace deal and the situation in the Gaza Strip, State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki told reporters Friday.
Kerry would also discuss "lowering tensions in Jerusalem" with the Palestinian team, Psaki said.
Clashes erupted in the West Bank Friday after weekly Muslim prayers while security forces deployed heavily around Jerusalem's flashpoint Al-Aqsa mosque which reopened following the killing of a Palestinian by police.
Al-Aqsa, in the Old City, and adjacent neighborhoods have seen months of violence, and the mosque compound has been a rallying point for Palestinian resistance to perceived Jewish attempts to take control of it.
During the unrest Thursday, Israel ordered a rare closure of the mosque compound, sacred to both Muslims and Jews, but the area reopened Friday.
Earlier this week, top US officials were forced onto the defensive after a magazine published scathing anonymous comments from someone in their ranks describing the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as a coward.
Kerry denounced the comments as "disgraceful, unacceptable and damaging," saying they did not represent the views of President Barack Obama or his cabinet.
But the report was yet another blow to turbulent US-Israel ties, which have seriously frayed since Kerry's bid to broker a peace treaty collapsed in April.