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Kerry Urges Hard Decisions After Meetings with Israeli, Palestinians

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry (R) waves as he stands next to Palestinian Chief Negotiator Saeb Erekat before his meeting with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in the West Bank city of Ramallah May 23, 2013.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry has ended a two-day visit to Israel and the Palestinian territories Friday by urging their leaders to make the hard decisions needed to revive the Middle East peace talks.

Concluding his fourth visit to the region in three months, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry called on Israel and the Palestinians to restart direct negotiations without preconditions.

"We do not want to get stuck in a place where we are arguing about a particular substantive issue that is actually part of a final settlement and that argument takes you so long that you never get to the negotiations that bring about a final settlement," said Kerry.

The remarks were not likely to please the Palestinians who say they will return to the negotiations only if Israel stops building new Jewish housing in the West Bank and releases all political prisoners

Photo Gallery: Kerry in Middle East

The Israelis say any talks should resume without preconditions.

During his visit, Kerry met with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and other leaders.

Kerry said both sides know what the choices are.

"Both sides know what is needed in order to try to move forward. And it's really time for the governments to make their decisions. Are they prepared? This is not something that we [the United States] can decide. This is something that the leaders of Israel and the leaders of the Palestinian Authority have to decide. And we're getting towards the time now where hard decisions need to be made," he said.

Secretary of State John Kerry travels to the following countries, May 21-26.
Secretary of State John Kerry travels to the following countries, May 21-26.
The Middle East peace talks have been largely stalled over the past four years.

Kerry's diplomacy over the past three months has been aimed at achieving small concessions that could encourage the two sides to adopt more flexible positions to allow direct talks to resume.

"Peace is actually possible notwithstanding the doubts that some people have because of past disappointments," said Kerry.

During his visit to the region, Kerry attended a conference in Jordan supporting Syria's opposition that reiterated its support for a negotiated solution to the conflict in Syria. It also pledged to increase its support for Syrian rebels until a political transition begins.

Before departing Kerry commented on the upcoming presidential elections in Iran (Friday) saying that the elimination of hundreds of candidates by Iran's Guardian Council, whose members are appointed by the government, is not a free and fair process.

Kerry's next stop is Ethiopia for a two-day meeting of leaders of the African Union.