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June 26, 2013

Kerry in Middle East For Talks With Israeli, Palestinian Leaders

by Scott Stearns

John Kerry is on his fifth trip to the Middle East as U.S. secretary of state, trying to make progress on peace between Israelis and Palestinians.

Secretary Kerry says decades of disappointment in the search for Middle East peace are no reason to stop trying.

"I wouldn't be here now if I didn't have a belief that this is possible.  But it's difficult.  We all know how difficult.  If this were easy, this would have been done a long time ago," Kerry said.

Kerry is trying to build on an existing Arab League peace initiative that gives broad Arab recognition to Israel in exchange for the creation of an independent Palestinian state.  That plan was amended earlier this year to include land swaps in a two-state solution to account for post-1967 Israeli settlements.

Kuwaiti Foreign Minister Sheikh Sabah al-Khaled al-Sabah says the Arab League is backing the Obama administration's push for peace.

Sheikh Sabah al-Khaled says Arab leaders are committed to implementing the peace initiative -- which includes the right of return for Palestinian refugees -- and fully support Kerry's effort to resolve this crisis.

The secretary of state meets Thursday in Jerusalem with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Friday in Amman with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.  Kerry says there is no time to waste.

"The passage of time obviously has the ability to wear out the people's patience and to feed cynicism and to give people a sense of impossibility where in fact is possibility," Kerry said.

Kerry has already discussed prospects for Middle East peace on this trip with Saudi and Qatari officials.  He meets with Jordanian King Abdullah Thursday before traveling to Jerusalem.