JERUSALEM: US Secretary of State John Kerry said yesterday the Israelis and Palestinians were making some progress in peace talks, though there was still a chance no accord would be reached.
Speaking before he flew to Jordan and Saudi Arabia to brief their rulers about his 10th visit to the region to see Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, Kerry said both sides had a sharper idea of the compromises needed to secure an agreement.
“This has been a productive couple of days,” Kerry told reporters. “We have had very positive — but I have to say very serious, very intensive — conversations.”
Kerry said all of the major issues in the conflict — borders, security, the fate of Palestinian refugees and the status of Jerusalem — were under discussion.
“The path is becoming clearer. The puzzle is becoming more defined. And it is becoming much more apparent to everybody what the remaining tough choices are,” he said.
He added he would not be flying to meet the kings of Jordan and Saudi Arabia if he did not believe both sides were grappling with the issues.
“But I cannot tell you when, particularly, the last pieces may decide to fall into place or may fall on the floor and leave the puzzle unfinished,” added Kerry, due to return to Jerusalem later yesterday.
Kerry appeared boosted by his meeting with Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdulah bin Abdulaziz of Saudi Arabia at his winter residence near Riyadh.
“Today, His Majesty was not just encouraging but supported our efforts in (the) hopes that we can be successful in the days ahead,” Kerry told reporters after meeting.
Kerry has been trying to establish what US officials call a “framework” for guidelines for an eventual peace accord.
He has previously asked Israel to reconsider a 2002 Arab peace plan, which it has rejected in the past. The initiative, originally proposed by King Abdullah, offers Israel full recognition in return for giving up land it captured in 1967 and a “just” solution for Palestinian refugees.
Kerry earlier spent an hour with Jordan’s King Abdullah in Amman discussing the peace talks, Syria’s civil war and violence in Iraq.