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Final status talks on Israel-Palestine "within reach," says Kerry - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
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US Secretary of State John Kerry speaks to the press with Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas following their meeting at the Palestinian presidential compound in the West Bank city of Ramallah on June 30, 2013. AFP PHOTO/JACQUELYN MARTIN

US Secretary of State John Kerry speaks to the press with Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas following their meeting at the Palestinian presidential compound in the West Bank city of Ramallah on June 30, 2013. AFP PHOTO/JACQUELYN MARTIN

Ramallah and Amman, Asharq Al-Awsat—After days of speculation that a breakthrough in Palestinian–Israeli peace talks may be close, the US secretary of state, John Kerry, said on Sunday that the chances for final status negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians have improved.

Speaking to reporters in Tel Aviv before flying out, Kerry said: “we have made real progress on this trip . . . And I believe that with a little more work, the start of final-status negotiations could be within reach. We started out with very wide gaps, and we have narrowed those considerably.”

After arriving in the Middle East on Thursday, Kerry shuttled back and forth between Amman and Jerusalem, to hold talks with Israeli and Palestinian leaders, cancelling a visit to the UAE to spend Saturday in Amman.

The Palestinian Authority has reportedly shown flexibility in dealing with Kerry’s efforts, because they did not want to be accused of damaging the peace process. Anonymous Palestinian sources yesterday revealed that the US Administration had put forward a three-point initiative to start the negotiations between the Palestinians and Israelis, which included guarantees to the Palestinians.

The sources, who did not reveal their identity, said the first point revolved around restarting the negotiations on the basis of the 1967 borders, not the de facto borders currently maintained by Israel. The second point requires the Israelis to freeze the expansion of settlements, on condition that the freezing coincides with the start of the negotiations and the extension of the freezing order during each negotiation round, and finally, the third, which is the release of 120 Palestinian prisoners held in Israeli jails since before the signing of the Oslo Agreement in 1993.

US officials said the talks were meaningful and constructive while an Israeli told the Haaretz newspaper that there was a possibility of a quadpartite meeting to be held in Amman, between Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, King Abdullah of Jordan and US Secretary of State John Kerry.

Meanwhile, the chief Palestinian negotiator, Saeb Erekat, cautioned that while the talks had been “positive,” obstacles remained.

“There is still a gap between the Palestinian and Israeli positions,” he added.