As U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry returns for a new round of Mideast negotiations, an Israeli official says Israel must keep a key part of the West Bank in any future deal.

Interior Minister Gideon Saar spoke Thursday in Gitit, a Jewish settlement in the Jordan Valley — a strategic part of the West Bank along the Jordanian border.

Saar says the area must not be relinquished to Palestinians but must be Israel's eastern border "forever."

In a symbolic gesture, lawmakers who came to Gitit with Saar poured cement on a foundation. Control over the area is a main focus of talks mediated by Kerry.

Israel wants to retain a security presence in the area after a peace deal is reached, citing security concerns. Palestinians reject that demand.