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Kerry sees progress in Middle East talks
June 30, 2013, 2:40 pm

After meeting with Abbas, Kerry said obstacles still remained [Xinhua]

After meeting with Abbas, Kerry said obstacles still remained [Xinhua]

US Secretary of State John Kerry said Sunday that he had failed to convince the Israelis and Palestinians to reach an agreement to revive peace talks but stressed that progress had been made to bring the two sides closer.

“I’m pleased to tell you that we have made real progress on this trip. And I believe that with a little more work, the start of final status negotiations could be within reach,” he said during a news conference at Tel Aviv’s airport.

“We started out with very wide gaps and we have narrowed those considerably,” he said. “We are making progress. That’s what’s important and that’s what will bring me back here.”

Kerry has been in the Middle East since Thursday for shuttle diplomacy with Palestinian and Israeli leaders in his fifth visit to the region since he began a new American initiative to get the two sides to talk.

But obstacles remain.

Following a meeting with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in Ramallah Sunday, Kerry told reporters that there were some matters that required resolution before proceeding with his intiative.

Negotiations stalled in 2010 over Israel’s settlement building in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, which the Palestinians recognize as the capital of their future state.

Saeb Erekat, the chief Palestinian negotiator, said Kerry’s meeting with Abbas was “positive and thorough.”

He said that while the Palestinians cooperated with Kerry, Israel was “putting obstacles on the way of peace.” Erekat was referring to recent Israeli plans to build 930 new settler homes in an East Jerusalem settlement.

“We do not have conditions to resume the negotiations,” Erekat said. “When we call for the principle of the two-state solution, stopping the settlements and releasing the old prisoners, we are talking about Israeli commitments, not Palestinian conditions,” he asserted

Source: Agencies