BAGHDAD - U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry has remained in the Middle East following President Barack Obama's visits with Israeli and Palestinian leaders, making a brief unannounced trip to Iraq. Kerry is hopeful that the president's trip set the stage for a lasting solution to the crisis.
Secretary Kerry followed up the president's diplomacy in separate talks with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.
Kerry believes regional leaders were impressed with President Obama's commitment to a two-state solution.
"I think that his words, even after he has left, are reverberating. People are debating and talking and that is precisely what the president sought to do," he said.
During his trip, Obama told Israelis that peace is the only path to true security, that by committing to a lasting solution they can reverse an "undertow of isolation" and blunt extremists.
He told Palestinians that they deserve "an end to occupation and the daily indignities that come with it" as well as their own state where they can move and travel freely.
Speaking to reporters in Baghdad, Secretary Kerry acknowledged the scale of the difficulties in resolving these long-standing disputes, saying "the stage has been set for the possibilities that parties can hopefully find a way to negotiations."
"All of us have learned in the course of the last years through many presidents and many secretaries of state there has been no more intractable problem. And so expressing optimism when you don't even have negotiations would be foolhardy. What I have is hope - hope that the president's words kindled a sense of the possible in the people of Israel and the region and the Palestinians," he said.
Kerry says he and others are now charged with the responsibility of trying to find a way forward, characterizing talks so far as "open, candid, and a good beginning."