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Kerry sees progress in Middle East talks

US top diplomat says Israel and Palestinians move towards a "framework agreement" to guide discussions on peace deal.

Last updated: 05 Jan 2014 00:18
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US Secretary of State John Kerry, left, was "confident" the two sides resolved certain issues [Reuters]

Israel and the Palestinian Authority have made progress in negotiations but still have a ways to go, US Secretary of State John Kerry says.

Before flying on Sunday to Jordan and Saudi Arabia to seek backing for his Middle East peace strategy, Kerry said the two sides were moving closer towards a "framework agreement" that would guide discussions on a formal peace deal.

"I am confident that the talks we have had in the last two days have already fleshed out and even resolved certain kinds of issues and presented new opportunities for others," Kerry said on Saturday after extensive, separate meetings with Palestinian and Israeli leaders.

No-one stands to lose more from failure than the Palestinians.

Saeb Erakat,
Palestinian negotiator 

"We are not there yet, but we are making progress," he told reporters in Ramallah.

Since arriving in the region on Thursday, Kerry has spent about eight hours in talks with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and more than 12 hours with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Widespread scepticism

US-brokered Israeli-Palestinian talks resumed last July after a three-year halt, with Kerry leading the push despite widespread scepticism about a successful outcome.

The US hopes the talks will lead to an agreement within nine months. But Kerry's tenth trip to the region has been clouded by bitter recriminations between Israeli and Palestinian leaders, with Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erakat seeking to counter criticism from Netanyahu that the Palestinians were not serious about peace.

"No-one stands to lose more from failure than the Palestinians," Erakat told reporters, noting "failure is not an option".

The US says a peace treaty would deal with all the core issues dividing the two sides, including the contours of a future Palestinian state, refugees, security and the fate of Jerusalem, claimed by both sides as a capital.

Broad Arab support is viewed as crucial if the Palestinians are to make the compromises likely necessary for a peace deal with Israel.

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Source:
Agencies
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