London, Asharq Al-Awsat—US Secretary of State John Kerry said on Saturday that negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority were “making progress,” but there were still serious obstacles to a peace agreement between the two sides.
Speaking to reporters at Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’s compound in Ramallah, Kerry said that the two sides were moving towards a “framework agreement which would really lay out the end game and lay out the framework for the major issues to guide the negotiations from this point forward.”
However, he warned that “we’re not there yet, but we are making progress and we are beginning to flesh out the toughest hurdles yet to be overcome.”
Kerry arrived in the Middle East on Thursday, and began a punishing schedule of extensive meetings with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.
He is scheduled to travel to Jordan and Saudi Arabia on Sunday to update their leaders on the progress of the talks, before flying back to Jerusalem at the end of the day.
The talks resumed last July after a break of three years, with Kerry being given credit for driving the process forwards despite widespread pessimism over its chances of success.
The Secretary of State has expressed hope that the framework agreement he is currently trying to negotiate can serve as the basis for a final treaty, which he hopes to make progress towards by April, according to US officials quoted in earlier press reports.
Following this trip to the region, Kerry is due to meet with a committee of Arab League foreign ministers to discuss the organization’s Peace Initiative.
Commenting on the talks, Arab League deputy Secretary-General Ahmed Ben Helli said: “The two sides have indeed started discussions about final-status issues, such as borders, settlements, Jerusalem and water. Another key issue is that of achieving reconciliation among the Palestinians and thus heal divisions which have been negatively affecting the situation in Palestine. We hope Egypt will be more active in this file and help achieve reconciliation given that Cairo is commissioned by the Arab League to finalize the issue as soon as possible.”