U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry smiles at a question from a reporter during a news conference about his trip to the Middle East, in Tel Aviv, Israel on Sunday, June 30, 2013. Kerry engaged in breakneck shuttle diplomacy to coax Israel and the Palestinians back into peace talks over a four-day span with multiple trips to Jordan and Israel and a stop in the West Bank town of Ramallah. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin, Pool)
TEL AVIV, Israel (AP) — U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry completed a new round of shuttle diplomacy Sunday without a hoped-for breakthrough in relaunching Mideast peace talks, but optimistically said he had narrowed the gaps between Israel and the Palestinians and vowed to return to the region soon to complete his mission.
Kerry said he was working on an emerging “package” meant to bring the sides together, and said he would leave a team of aides in the region to continue the efforts.
“With a little more work, the start of final status negotiations could be within reach,” he told reporters, shortly before leaving Israel for an Asian security conference in Brunei.
It was not clear how much progress Kerry had truly made. He refused to provide details of the package he is working on, and Israeli and Palestinian officials, at Kerry’s request, remained mum.
Even before negotiations have begun, the gaps remain wide on simply establishing the ground rules.
Negotiations have been stalled since 2008, in large part due to Israeli settlement policies in the West Bank and east Jerusalem.
The Palestinians claim both areas, captured by Israel in the 1967 Mideast war, for a future independent state alongside Israel and have demanded that Israel stop building settlements on occupied lands before talks resume. More than 500,000 Jewish settlers now Login to read more