Kerry Believes Mideast Peace Talks 'Could Be Within Reach'

The term shuttle diplomacy may be over-used, especially in the pursuit of peace between Israelis and Palestinians. But that is exactly what Secretary of State John Kerry did on his latest visit to the Mideast. Kerry spent long, separate sessions with Palestinian and Israeli officials.

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DAVID GREENE, HOST:

Henry Kissinger as Secretary of State in the 1970s made the term shuttle diplomacy famous in the Middle East. Some of his successors used the same strategy, but it had been a while. Well, now it's John Kerry's turn. He emerged yesterday from long separate sessions with Palestinian and Israeli officials, saying the start of peace negotiations could be within reach. NPR's Emily Harris reports.

EMILY HARRIS, BYLINE: First, it was a late night dinner with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem Thursday, then a Friday morning meeting with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas in Amman, Jordan. Back in Jerusalem Friday afternoon, back in Amman Saturday morning, Kerry's meeting schedule was always in flux.

At the last minute, he added an extra day, skipping a visit to the United Arab Emirates to keep working with both sides here. Before leaving Israel Sunday afternoon, Kerry said they made progress.

SECRETARY JOHN KERRY: The gaps were very broad when we began. They are now, I think, very narrow and we have, as I said, some work to do. I'm leaving staff here. I wouldn't be doing that if I didn't believe we had something serious to work on.

HARRIS: Lead Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat said there was progress, but no breakthrough. Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu said he was ready to negotiate immediately. After decades of this conflict, the major issues are well known. Israel says it will never compromise on security. Palestinians want enough land for a viable independent state and see Israel's continued home building in the West Bank as a direct threat. Kerry said these talks are complicated because the stakes are high.

KERRY: This is about a country, two countries and two peoples and peace and the possibilities of avoiding war and how you guarantee things where years and years of conflict, of hardened feelings and hardened emotions and hardened realities.

HARRIS: When the two sides move closer, Kerry expects to be back. Emily Harris, NPR News, Jerusalem.

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