VATICAN CITY

Pope Francis announces upcoming trip to Mideast

Pope Francis says his upcoming trip to the Holy Land aims to boost relations with Orthodox Christians. But the three-day visit in May also underscores Francis’ close ties to the Jewish community, his outreach to Muslims and the Vatican’s longstanding call for peace between Israel and the Palestinians.

The announcement was made Sunday just as Secretary of State John Kerry wrapped up three days of talks with Israeli and Palestinian leaders in a new U.S. bid for peace.

Francis told thousands gathered in the rain for his weekly Sunday blessing that he would visit Amman, Bethlehem and Jerusalem on May 24-26. It is the only papal trip confirmed so far for 2014 and the second foreign trip of Francis’ pontificate, following his 2013 visit to Brazil for World Youth Day.

Francis, an Argentine Jesuit, will be the fourth pope to visit the Holy Land after Paul VI’s landmark visit in 1964.

ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia

South Sudan factions hold first direct negotiations

Two warring factions from South Sudan held direct peace talks Sunday for the first time since conflict began roiling the country last month.

The direct talks, focused on a cease-fire and the release of political prisoners, put representatives of President Salva Kiir and former Vice President Riek Machar together in Ethiopia.

South Sudan has experienced three weeks of violence. Kiir says the violence began as a coup attempt Dec. 15, though Machar’s side denies the allegation. Violence began as a political dispute but has since taken on ethnic dimensions, with tribes attacking each other.

The U.N. has said at least 1,000 people have died. Some 200,000 people have been displaced by the fighting.

NEW YORK

Manhattan high-rise fire kills one man, injures one

One man was killed and another was injured in a three-alarm high-rise apartment fire in midtown Manhattan on Sunday, authorities said.

Firefighter spokesman Danny Glover said the fire was reported shortly after 11 a.m. in an apartment on the 20th floor of a building at 43rd Street and 10th Avenue. About 150 firefighters brought the fire under control shortly before 1 p.m., he said.

Police said 27-year-old Daniel McClung was taken to a hospital where he was pronounced dead. The other victim, a 32-year-old man, was hospitalized in stable condition, police said.

Assistant Fire Chief John Sudhik told the Daily News the victims were overcome by smoke and flames in the stairwell.

Plane from Toronto slides into snow after landing

A plane from Toronto slid into snow as it turned onto a taxiway after landing at John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York on Sunday, halting flights at the airport for two hours.

“It could have been worse, a much worse scenario,” Jordan Houlton told reporters after he emerged from Delta Connection 4100 along with 34 other passengers and crew members about 90 minutes after the slippery diversion of the CRJ2 aircraft.

Federal Aviation Administration spokeswoman Kathleen Bergen said there was no immediate report of injuries after the plane landed safely at 8 a.m., only to lose its footing and slide into snow as it turned from the runway onto a taxiway.

The plane was then towed to a gate with passengers on board, she said.

– From news service reports