TEL AVIV, Israel (AP) -- U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry on Tuesday
wrapped up three days of high-level Mideast diplomacy on a positive
note, saying he held "very constructive talks" with Israeli and
Palestinian leaders and promising to press on in an effort to break a
four-year deadlock over resuming direct negotiations. Talking to reporters after holding private talks with Israeli Prime
Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Kerry said the parties all committed to
a process that could "create the conditions for peace" so that they
can return to the negotiating table.
Kerry stressed that he was being mindful of the "good intentions and
failed efforts" that have dogged Middle East diplomacy in the past
and said he'd focus on "laying the groundwork so we can bring people
to the table with a clear understanding of what we're beginning on,
what we're trying to do, and where we're trying to end up."
Kerry, who has committed the United States to a multi-month
diplomatic effort, stressed that he was being intentionally coy on
the specifics of his new peace push.
"It's not going to be done and shouldn't be done in piecemeal public
releases," he said. "It's best done quietly."
The secretary of state also said he would be engaging in a parallel
effort to break down red tape and other barriers to economic progress
in the West Bank to improve the lives of Palestinians and provide a
climate for two-state solution. He said such an effort would also
improve Israel's security.
He said changes would come soon, and said more details would be
announced in the coming week after meetings in Washington with U.S.
aid agencies and financial institutions.
Netanyahu told reporters earlier Tuesday that he wanted peace. He
welcomed proposals for economic assistance to the Palestinians, but
said issues of recognition and security remain "foremost in our
"I'm determined not only to resume the peace process with the
Palestinians but to make a serious effort to end this conflict once
and for all," he told reporters before meeting Kerry. Addressing the
top American diplomat, he said, "This is a real effort and we look
forward to advance in this effort with you."
Kerry stressed that he was not trying to dictate the terms of any
peace deal between the Israelis and Palestinians.
He noted the importance of the 2002 Arab Peace Initiative, a document
that has gotten renewed attention this week as Kerry and Arab
officials have discussed modifying its terms to boost
Israeli-Palestinian peace hopes. But he said the document belongs to
Arab countries themselves.
"It suggests ... a way forward for the Arab world to make peace with
Israel," he said. "As such, it remains a very important statement."