News / Middle East

Kerry: Israeli-Palestinian Talks Getting Closer

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry speaks during a joint press conference with Jordan's Foreign Minister Nasser Judeh at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in the Jordanian capital, Amman, July 17, 2013.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry speaks during a joint press conference with Jordan's Foreign Minister Nasser Judeh at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in the Jordanian capital, Amman, July 17, 2013.
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VOA News
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry says Israel and the Palestinians are moving closer to resuming peace talks.

Kerry told reporters in Jordan Wednesday his talks with Israeli and Palestinian officials have been able to narrow differences between the two sides.

"Despite everything else that is happening in the region, despite all of the pressures of neighboring states, of refugees, conflict, despite the pressures of a volatile neighborhood, the fact is that both sides continue to work, up to this point, in good faith, in a good effort in order to try to find a way to succeed," he said.

Kerry also warned the parties not to take steps that would undermine the process.

His remarks in Amman came during his sixth trip to the Middle East since becoming secretary of state earlier this year. 

Earlier in the day, Kerry briefed the Arab League chief and representatives of Arab states that support a comprehensive peace plan. He also met with Jordan's King Abdullah, and was scheduled to meet again later Wednesday with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.

Kerry has made reviving the Israeli-Palestinian talks -- which collapsed in 2010 -- one of his top priorities.  During Wednesday's news conference, he said many of the Arab League ministers told him "the core issue of instability in this region and in many other parts of the world is the Palestinian-Israeli conflict."

Kerry said part of the plan is to show both sides the benefits of peace, and in particular the impact some proposals could have on the Palestinian economy.

"Our hope is that over the span of about three years you could actually reduce the unemployment rate from 21 percent to 8 percent, that you could double the GDP [Gross Domestic Product] of all of the Palestinian territory," said the secretary of state. 

Despite his focus on restarting the peace talks, Kerry said his discussions also covered the conflict in Syria and the tensions in Egypt.

Kerry emphasized the need for a political solution in Syria that "promises the people of Syria a future without violence."

"The combination of the Iranian Quds force on the ground in Syria, and Hezbollah, a terrorist organization, on the ground in Syria and Russian support coming in has been the difference that's tilted some of these initiatives toward President Assad but not for the long term.  And I think that's why we continue to say the political solution is the ultimate solution," he said.

Kerry is weighing a possible visit to a Syrian refugee camp in Jordan before his trip ends.  He would be the most senior U.S. official to survey the refugee situation, which has strained host countries like Jordan.

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