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Kerry leaves Israel upbeat despite no peace-talks deal

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U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry smiles at a question from a reporter during a Tel Aviv news conference about his trip to the Middle East. Kerry engaged in breakneck shuttle diplomacy to coax Israel and the Palestinians back into peace talks over a four-day span with multiple trips to Jordan and Israel and a stop in the West Bank town of Ramallah.

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TEL AVIV — U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry on Sunday wrapped up four days of shuttle diplomacy without agreement on restarting Mideast peace talks, but he left on a positive note, saying he had narrowed the gaps between Israel and the Palestinians and that the resumption of negotiations could be “within reach.”

Mr. Kerry delivered the assessment after a final, frantic day of diplomacy that included a late-night meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and a last-minute meeting in the West Bank with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.

“I ... know progress when I see it, and we are making progress,” Mr. Kerry said before departing to Brunei for a security summit.

He would not elaborate, but said he would leave a team of aides in the region to continue the mediation. He also said that at the request of both sides, he would return soon.

“We started out with very wide gaps and we have narrowed those considerably,” Mr. Kerry said. “We have some specific details and work to pursue, but I am absolutely confident that we are on the right track and all of the parties are working in very good faith in order to get to the right place.”

Since taking office early this year, Mr. Kerry has been shuttling between Israel and the Palestinians in search of a formula to restart negotiations aimed at a final peace agreement. The talks seek to establish an independent Palestinian state.

Mr. Kerry said he was convinced that both sides are serious about restarting peace efforts.

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