(JERUSALEM) — The U.S. and Great Britain are making a new push to restart peace talks between the Israelis and Palestinians that have gone nowhere for the past five years.
Secretary of State John Kerry and his British counterpart, Foreign Secretary William Hague, held talks Thursday with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem and President Mahmoud Abbas in Ramallah.
Kerry acknowledged the daunting task that lies ahead in getting the two sides to bend after so much intransigence, telling reporters, “I know this region well enough to know that there is skepticism. In some quarters there is cynicism and there are reasons for it. There have been bitter years of disappointment.”
Still, the top U.S. envoy is holding out hope that the Israelis and Palestinians will head back to the bargaining table to work out a deal guaranteeing a separate Palestinian state and more security for Israel.
The major obstacle remains the building of Jewish settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. Abbas wants them stopped before he’ll resume talks with Netanyahu while the prime minister says he’ll only consider halting construction once peace discussions get underway.
In spite of the long odds, Netanyahu expressed confidence that talks can happen, adding, “Where there is a will, we will find a way.”
Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio
Euan McKirdy, Bryony Jones and Barry Neild, CNN
Michael Pearson and Steve Almasy, CNN