US top diplomat Kerry ‘close’ to restarting Mideast talks

US top diplomat Kerry ‘close’ to restarting Mideast talks

RAMALLAH - The Associated Press
US top diplomat Kerry ‘close’ to restarting Mideast talks

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas meets US Secretary of State John Kerry in West Bank.

Palestinian officials said U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry is closing in on an agreement between Israel and the Palestinians to relaunch peace talks for a period of six to nine months.

Kerry announced this week that he had narrowed the gaps between the sides. He is expected back in the region in the near future.

The Palestinians want Israel to halt construction of Jewish settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, occupied areas where they hope to establish a state, before talks resume. Two Palestinian officials said Kerry’s plan calls for a halt in settlement construction outside of major “blocs” that Israel expects to keep. Palestinian President Mahmud Abbas said July 2 that Kerry had made “useful and constructive proposals” during his four-day visit last week and said he was “optimistic” about the outcome.

A new Israel-Palestinian survey shows most people held little hope the talks would result in a resumption of direct talks after a hiatus of nearly three years. According to a poll jointly conducted by the Harry S. Truman Research Institute for the Advancement of Peace at Jerusalem’s Hebrew University and the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research in Ramallah, just over a quarter of Palestinians, 27 percent, and only one in 10 Israelis, believe that talks will resume and violence will end.

Just over two thirds of both peoples, 68 percent of Israelis and 69 percent of Palestinians, view the likelihood of a Palestinian state emerging in the next five years as low or non-existent. And on both sides there is a high degree of suspicion of the other side’s long-term intentions.