JERUSALEM — America’s top diplomat has wound up another peace mission to the Middle East. Despite U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry's optimism, major obstacles remain.
Kerry held separate talks with Israeli and Palestinian leaders, keeping American shuttle diplomacy in high gear.
On his ninth visit to the region this year, Kerry met with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in the West Bank.
The peace talks began in July and are slated to last for nine months. At a news conference in Tel Aviv, Kerry said the target date remains the end of April.
“Our goal remains as it always has been: for the Israelis and Palestinians to reach a final status agreement, not an interim agreement, a final status agreement,” he said.
Kerry said the negotiations are focusing on security.
“It is a key issue because all of the countries in the region and all of the people in the region understand the threats that exist, and particularly the threat from terrorism, the threat from - externally to the State of Israel,” he said.
But the security issue is facing major obstacles, for instance, on the future border between Jordan and a Palestinian state. Israel wants its troops to be stationed on the border for at least 10 years, but the Palestinians reject that outright.
Gaps are wide on other core issues of the conflict as well, such as the status of Jerusalem, Jewish settlements and Palestinian refugees.