Kerry says Israel, Palestine close to deal on peace talks

June 30, 2013 at 12:06 PM
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JERUSALEM, June 30 (UPI) -- U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said he was confident Israelis and Palestinians were on the verge of agreeing to negotiations on a lasting peace agreement.

Speaking to reporters in Tel Aviv Sunday, Kerry said his recent meetings with the two sides had achieved "real progress" that set the stage for a new round of talks.

"I am 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," said Kerry. "We started out with very wide gaps and we have narrowed those considerably."

Kerry declined to reveal any specific changes of opinion that could be characterized as a breakthrough since the negotiations on the final-status talks were still under way. "We have all agreed that the best way to serve this effort is not to be floating ideas or possibilities out there for everybody to tear apart and evaluate and analyze," he said. "The leaders will make those decisions. And that's why this is difficult."

Kerry said a number of his aides would remain in the region and he would return at a later date to complete the job.

Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat said earlier there was no breakthrough in talks, and gaps between Israel and the Palestinian positions remained, said. But Kerry said the process was headed in the right direction with the good cooperation from both sides. "If it takes another week or two weeks or some more time, that's minimal, minuscule compared to the stakes and compared to what we're trying to do," he said.

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