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Government

July 17, 2013

Kerry wins Arab backing on Mideast peace effort

AMMAN, Jordan — U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry on Wednesday won Arab League backing for his effort to restart Israeli-Palestinian peace talks, raising hopes for a resumption in the stalled negotiations in the near future. Kerry himself said significant progress had been made in narrowing gaps between the two sides but declined to elaborate.

On his sixth trip to the Middle East in as many months as America's top diplomat, Kerry met in Jordan with representatives of the Arab League and nine of its members that support a comprehensive Arab-Israeli peace plan proposed by Saudi Arabia.

In a statement released after the meeting, the Arab delegates said they supported Kerry's initiative.

"The Arab delegates believe Kerry's ideas proposed to the committee today constitute a good ground and suitable environment for restarting the negotiations, especially the new and important political, economic and security elements," the statement said.

The statement was significant because could give Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas the political cover he would need to sell a return to negotiations to a skeptical Palestinian public. Kerry met with Abbas in Amman on Wednesday afternoon after they shared a five hour dinner later Monday night.

At a Wednesday news conference after the Arab League and Abbas meetings, Kerry said that the Israelis and Palestinians were narrowing gaps that have prevented them from restarting talks.

"When this process started several months ago, there were very wide gaps very significant gaps between the two sides," he said. "Through hard and deliberate, patient work, and most importantly through quiet work we have been able to narrow those gaps very significantly."

"We continue to get closer and I continue to remain hopeful that the sides will soon be able to come to sit at the same table," he said. "There are still some elements, some language that needs to be agreed upon and worked out. This is normal."

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