After four days of intense diplomacy, US Secretary of State John Kerry was heading home Monday, insisting progress has been made despite failing to agree a framework to guide the talks between “Israel” and the Palestinian Authority.
During his tour, Kerry spent hours locked in separate meetings with “Israeli” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmud Abbas, as well as making a surprise day trip to key Arab allies, Jordan and Saudi Arabia.
Monday morning, the top US diplomat was briefing Tony Blair, the Middle East special envoy for the Quartet, at his hotel in Occupied al-Quds as he wrapped up his 10th trip to the region as secretary of state.
Earlier, Kerry met with “Israeli” opposition leader Isaac Herzog.
Talks appear to have focused on security in the Jordan Valley, on the border between the West Bank and Jordan, as well as the fate of Occupied al-Quds, which both sides claim as their future capital.
Kerry emerged from talks at the secluded desert residence of Saudi King Abdullah late Sunday to say he had won the support of the influential Arab leader.
“His Majesty was not just encouraging, but supported our efforts and hopes that we can be successful in the days ahead and believes that this is important for the region and that there are great benefits that will come to everybody if we’re able to be successful,” Kerry said.
Saudi Foreign Minister Saud al-Faisal agreed it had been “an excellent meeting.”
The top US diplomat is due to meet this week with top members of the Arab League to brief them on his discussions in “Israel” and the West Bank.
On Sunday, Netanyahu renewed allegations that Palestinians were “continuing their campaign of inciting hatred.”
The Palestinian Authority negotiators, meanwhile, have reportedly told Kerry they will refuse to recognize “Israel” as a Jewish entity, and remain steadfast in their opposition to stationing any “Israeli” troops in the Jordan Valley.
Kerry was leaving Monday without having agreed a framework to guide the negotiations in the crunch months ahead, but US officials had already warned there would be no breakthrough on this trip.
Undaunted, Kerry has vowed his team, led by special envoy Martin Indyk, will carry on working here this week, and said he will return soon to Tel Aviv, as an April deadline for an accord looms.
“Israeli” media said that Kerry would be returning to the region next week.
He pledged any accord will be “fair and balanced,” but acknowledged on Sunday his efforts might still fail, likening the negotiations to completing a complex puzzle.
“The path is becoming clearer, the puzzle is becoming more defined, and it is becoming much more apparent to everybody what the remaining tough choices are and what the options are with respect to those choices,” he said.
“But I cannot tell you when particularly the last pieces may decide to fall into place or may fall on the floor and leave the puzzle unfinished. That’s exactly what makes this such a challenge, and also so interesting at the same time.”