Skip to main content

John Kerry leaves Mideast with optimism but no date for talks

By Elise Labott, CNN Foreign Affairs Reporter
updated 9:02 PM EDT, Sun June 30, 2013
Secretary of State John Kerry speaks during a news conference at on Sunday, June 30, in Tel Aviv, Israel.
Secretary of State John Kerry speaks during a news conference at on Sunday, June 30, in Tel Aviv, Israel.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Secretary of State Kerry met with Israeli, Palestinian leaders separately over 20 hours
  • Kerry was optimistic about progress, but Palestinian negotiator says gaps remain
  • Israeli Netanyahu and Palestinian Abbas want Kerry to return to work out details
  • Kerry wants talks to resume before the U.N. General Assembly meets in September

Jerusalem (CNN) -- Secretary of State John Kerry ended four days of shuttle diplomacy Sunday without an agreement to revive Mideast peace talks but said significant progress had been made and that he would return to the region soon.

"We started out with very wide gaps and we have narrowed those considerably," he said at a news conference before leaving for Asia. "I believe that with a little more work, the start of final status negotiations could be within reach."

Kerry held more than 20 hours of meetings with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, speaking with each of the leaders three times separately over four days. He said both asked him to return to the region in the next few weeks to finish work on a formula to restart peace talks, which have been stalled since 2010.

Despite Kerry's optimism, Palestinian chief negotiator Saeb Erekat told a news conference Sunday after Kerry's third and final meeting with Abbas, "it was a positive and profound meeting with President Abbas, but there has been no breakthrough so far and there is still a gap between the Palestinian and Israeli positions."

Kerry has revealed few details of his strategy to bring the two sides together and would not discuss Sunday the substance of the discussions or what sticking points remained.

But Israeli settlement building on land the Palestinians hope will be part of their future state remains a stumbling block. Abbas has demanded that Netanyahu halt settlement activity in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, territories captured by Israel in the 1967 war, as a precondition for beginning talks. The Palestinians also want Israel to accept the pre-1967 boundaries as a basis for a final Palestinian state.

On Saturday Netanyahu told his cabinet, "Israel is prepared to enter into negotiations without delay, without preconditions, and we are not placing any barriers on the resumption of final-status talks on a permanent peace agreement between the Palestinians and us."

Kerry left Israel for Brunei, where he was to meet with Asian leaders and hold talks with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov about the crisis in Syria. He said he was leaving some of his staff behind to continue working with the parties.

Although Kerry said he did not want to set a deadline for resuming talks, he has said he would like then to start before the United Nations General Assembly, which has already granted de facto recognition to the Palestinians, convenes in September.

Netanyahu is concerned the Palestinians could use the U.N. session for further moves on statehood, including seeking membership in the International Criminal Court to take action against Israel. The Obama administration has threatened to cut off aid to the Palestinians if they take that route.

"One ally none of us have is time," Kerry said. "It lets patience wear thin and cynicism to solidify, and for unforeseen events to even enter into a closing window."

Kerry details U.S. attempts to get Snowden back

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
updated 5:45 PM EST, Tue December 16, 2014
Pakistan Taliban say the school attack was revenge for the killing of children in a military offensive -- but they are being pressed by defections to ISIS.
A group that claims it hacked Sony Pictures has posted a public threat against moviegoers who see Sony's "The Interview."
updated 9:43 PM EST, Wed December 17, 2014
The gunman behind the deadly siege in Sydney this week was not on a security watch list, and Australia's Prime Minister wants to know why.
updated 4:48 AM EST, Thu December 18, 2014
Bestselling author Marjorie Liu had set her sights on being a lawyer, but realized it wasn't what she wanted to do for the rest of her life.
updated 3:27 PM EST, Tue December 16, 2014
CNN's Matthew Chance looks into an HRW report saying Russia has "legalized discrimination against LGBT people."
updated 9:12 PM EST, Mon December 15, 2014
The Sydney siege has brought home some troubling truths to Australians. They are not immune to what are often called "lone-wolf" terror attacks.
updated 7:12 PM EST, Mon December 15, 2014
A social media campaign condemning Islamophobia under the hashtag #illridewithyou has taken off after Sydney hostage siege.
Bill Cosby has kept quiet as sexual assault allegations mounted against him, but his wife, Camille, finally spoke out in defense of her husband.
updated 6:44 AM EST, Mon December 15, 2014
China-bound AirAsia flight turns back to Bangkok after passenger throws water over crew member.
updated 5:26 AM EST, Mon December 15, 2014
It takes Nepalese eye doctor, Sanduk Ruit about five minutes to change someone's life.
updated 5:54 AM EST, Tue December 16, 2014
This epic journey crosses 13,000 kilometers, eight countries over 21 days. Find out where.
updated 9:16 AM EST, Thu December 18, 2014
Each day, CNN brings you an image capturing a moment to remember, defining the present in our changing world.
Browse through images from CNN teams around the world that you don't always see on news reports.
ADVERTISEMENT