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Kerry: Palestinian and Israeli leaders 'making progress' in negotiations

US Secretary of State Kerry has concluded his latest round of talks with Israeli and Palestinian leaders. Neither side has reached an agreement, but there are signs of hope they can still find common ground, Kerry said.

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Kerry's push for peace continues

After two days of talks in Ramallah and Jerusalem, US Secretary of State John Kerry told reporters that negotiations remained difficult, but that recent talks had moved the discussion closer toward reaching a framework agreement to serve as a basis for peace talks.

"We're not there yet, but we are making progress," Kerry said.

"We are trying to find a framework agreement that would really lay out the end zone, lay out the framework to guide the negotiations from this point forward," he added.

The comments came in the West Bank city of Ramallah after his second meeting with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in two days. Kerry also met with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem later in the day. However, neither gave comments following their five-hour meeting.

Negotiations between Palestinian and Israeli leaders resumed in July after

the continued building of Israeli housing settlements by Israel on disputed land

caused previous peace efforts to stall for roughly three years.

#link:17329703:Before attempting to hammer out a peace deal, both sides seek to establish "defined parameters" that would help guide future high-level talks.

Progress 'sufficient to keep going'

Deep-rooted disputes over borders, the division of Jerusalem and its status as a capital city, mutual recognition of a Jewish state and an independent Palestine and the fate of Palestinian refugees continued to hamper progress, Kerry said Saturday. With a looming April deadline to conclude the first major round of talks, both sides must remain optimistic, Kerry said.

"[These issues must be] worked through and undone and a pathway has to be laid down in which the parties can have confidence that they know what is happening and that the road ahead is real, not illusory," he said.

However, Kerry said "the progress we made is sufficient to encourage people to keep going."

"I am confident that the talks we have had in the last two days have already fleshed out and even resolved certain kinds of issues and presented new opportunities for others," he added.

Kerry was expected to meet with King Abdullah II of Jordan and King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia in their respective countries on Sunday to discuss the outcome of his latest visit to the region.

No room for failure

Meanwhile, chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat urged skeptical Palestinians to support recent peace efforts. There were reportedly Palestinian protesters awaiting the US Secretary of State when he arrived in Ramallah.

"No one benefits more from the success of Secretary Kerry's efforts than Palestinians and no one stands to lose more [from] failure than Palestinians," Erekat told reporters in Ramallah.

He also called on Israel to halt any further plans to construct settlements. The comment was in response to media reports that Israel had delayed announcing plans to build 1,400 Jewish settlement homes until Kerry's departure.

kms/ccp (AP, AFP, Reuters, dpa)

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