JERUSALEM — U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry left Israel without bringing Israeli and Palestinian officials back to the peace negotiating table.
Kerry said, however, that “real progress” had been made during his whirlwind trip and he would return to the region.
He left Israel for Asia on Sunday afternoon following three meetings each with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.
“We started out with very wide gaps and we have narrowed those considerably,” Kerry said before boarding his plane. “We are making progress. That’s what’s important and that’s what will bring me back here.
“I believe that with a little more work, the start of final status negotiations could be within reach.”
Netanyahu hours after his third meeting with Kerry told his Cabinet on Sunday morning that Israel will not compromise on security in a peace deal with the Palestinians. He also said any agreement would be brought to a vote of the people.
The final Netanyahu-Kerry meeting took place over six hours on Saturday night and early Sunday morning.
“Israel is ready to begin negotiations without delay, without preconditions,” Netanyahu told his Cabinet. “We are not putting up any impediments on the resumption of the permanent talks and a peace agreement between us and the Palestinians.
“There are things that we will strongly insist on in the talks themselves, especially security.”