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Kerry, Hague Try to Revive Mideast Talks

The top diplomats of the United States and Britain have made a joint attempt to revive Israeli-Palestinian peace talks by shuttling between Jerusalem and Ramallah to meet the leaders of both sides.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and British Foreign Secretary William Hague held separate meetings with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Thursday, saying they hope to make progress in restarting the negotiations. The two diplomats also met separately with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in Ramallah later in the day.

But, there was no sign that the Israeli or Palestinian leaderships were ready to make any shifts in long-standing positions that have kept peace talks largely frozen since late 2008. There also was no announcement from Kerry or Hague of any new Western ideas to bring the two sides together.

In Jerusalem, Kerry praised what he called Mr. Netanyahu's "seriousness" and "personal energy" in trying to find a path to Israeli-Palestinian peace talks. Kerry also said he understands skepticism and even cynicism in the region about the long-stalled process.

"There have been bitter years of disappointment. It is our hope that by being methodical, careful, patient, but detailed and tenacious, that we can lay out a path ahead that can conceivably surprise people certainly exhaust the possibilities of peace."

Mr. Netanyahu told Kerry that Israel wants to restart the peace talks "above all" and hopes the Palestinians want to do the same, adding that "where there is a will, we will find a way."

Mr. Abbas has said he will not negotiate with Israel until it suspends Jewish settlement construction on occupied land in the West Bank and East Jerusalem - areas Palestinians claim for an independent state.

Mr. Netanyahu has said settlement construction will continue and he is ready to negotiate without preconditions.

Neither Kerry nor Hague made any remarks to the media during or after their separate talks with Mr. Abbas in Ramallah. There also was no word from Mr. Abbas's Palestinian Authority on what was discussed.

But, both diplomats made gestures toward the Palestinians. Kerry walked along a Ramallah street and ate at a Palestinian restaurant in a rare public walkabout for a senior U.S. official in a Palestinian city.

Hague pledged $500 million in British aid to the Palestinian Authority to run hospitals, schools and social welfare services in the next four years. He also met with Palestinian youths and Bedouin villagers.

Earlier, Hague began his meeting with Mr. Netanyahu by saying London will support Kerry's Mideast peace efforts.

"We urged all parties to move the process forward and to really give the bold and decisive leadership that will allow success to happen and avoid steps that undermine it and I welcome Prime Minister Netanyahu's clear commitment to a two-state solution.''

Speaking alongside Hague, the Israeli prime minister also raised the issue of Iran's controversial nuclear program.

"Despite the economic and diplomatic pressures, the international community has so far been unable to prevent Iran from pursuing its nuclear weapons program. Obviously, this is the biggest challenge facing us. I think it is the biggest challenge of our times."

Israel, Britain and other Western powers accuse Iran of trying to develop nuclear weapons under cover of a civilian energy program. Tehran says its nuclear activities are peaceful.

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