Kerry: U.S. 'comfortable' with progress of Mideast peace talks

Dec. 13, 2013 at 3:52 PM
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JERUSALEM, Dec. 13 (UPI) -- The United States is "comfortable" with the progress of peace talks between Israel and the Palestinian Authority, Secretary of State John Kerry said Friday.

Kerry, speaking to reporters at a news conference in Jerusalem, said Israel will release a group of Palestinian prisoners at the end of December.

Kerry met Thursday with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in Ramallah and Friday with Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu.

"We're fleshing out a lot of different issues, and we're comfortable with the fact that everything is on the table and everything is being discussed," Kerry said. "And I think it's important in that process to be thinking about the framework core principles which guide you, but I think we have a pretty good sense of that."

Kerry stopped in Jerusalem en route to East Asia where he is to visit Vietnam and the Philippines.

Kerry tried this week to convince the Palestinians to accept a delay in the third group of prisoners scheduled for release, the Israeli newspaper Haaretz reported. He said they would get a larger group, 60 in all, released by the end of January.

The secretary reportedly feared Netanyahu, after the release, would announce another expansion of Israeli settlements in the West Bank that could threaten the talks.

The trip to Asia is Kerry's fourth since he became the top U.S. diplomat, the State Department said.

In Ho Chi Minh City, Kerry's meetings will stress the growth of the U.S.-Vietnamese trade relationship and the role of education, the department said.

In Hanoi, Kerry will meet with senior Vietnamese leaders to discuss matters including the Comprehensive Partnership announced by President Obama and President Truong Tan Sang in July.

Kerry then heads to the Philippines to meet with senior Philippine officials to discuss ways to build on the countries' economic, security and people-to-people relations, the State Department said.

Kerry also will visit Tacloban, hard-hit by Typhoon Haiyan Nov. 8, to view recovery efforts and discuss how the United States can further contribute to the relief and reconstruction work.

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