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Kerry heads to Israel for Mideast peace talks

By Jason Hanna, CNN
updated 8:17 AM EDT, Mon March 31, 2014
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Kerry kickstarted latest peace effort eight months ago
  • Spokeswoman: Kerry decided to return to region this week after consulting with U.S. negotiators
  • Borders, security issues, status of Jerusalem still are sticking points

(CNN) -- U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry is traveling to Israel on Monday as part of the latest effort to forge a peace deal between Israel and the Palestinians, State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said.

Kerry is flying from Paris -- where he had discussed the Ukraine crisis with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov over the weekend -- into Tel Aviv, with possible meetings in Jerusalem and Ramallah over the next day, a senior State Department official said.

Kerry tried to restart the Israeli-Palestinian peace process eight months ago, aiming to get a deal leading to the two states coexisting peacefully.

So far, the process has included a series of meetings along with incremental steps intended to build trust, such as prisoner releases. However, Kerry's initial goal of an agreement by the end of April has morphed into a possible framework for further talks through the end of 2014.

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Psaki said Kerry decided it would be productive to return to the region this week after consulting with a U.S. team that is negotiating with the Israelis and the Palestinians to end their decades-long conflict.

"Over the course of the last eight months, the Israelis and Palestinians have both made tough choices, and as we work with them to determine the next steps, it is important they remember that only peace will bring the Israeli and Palestinian people both the security and economic prosperity they all deserve," Psaki said.

Kerry's trip comes after President Barack Obama hosted Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas for separate White House talks earlier this month.

While both sides have signaled agreement with the concept of a two-state solution, in which Israel and an independent Palestinian nation would live side by side, they remain at odds over how to make that happen.

Areas of disagreement include borders, security issues, the status of Jerusalem, and the rights of Palestinians who left or fled their homes in what is now Israel.

READ: John Kerry defies the odds with intense drive for Middle East peace

READ: Time running out for even a framework for Middle East talks

CNN"s Tom Cohen contributed to this report.

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