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Kerry staying in Israel to advance talks

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JERUSALEM (JTA) — U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry reportedly will remain in Israel to hold more talks leading to an Israeli-Palestinian peace treaty.

Kerry, who arrived in Israel on Thursday, flew to Saudi Arabia on Sunday morning to report to Arab leaders on the negotiations.  He told reporters in Israel as he left that he would return Sunday night and could stay up to several days longer in order to continue guiding the peace process forward.

On Saturday night in Ramallah, Kerry addressed progress in the talks in remarks with chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat following a meeting with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.

“I am confident that the talks we’ve had in the last two days have already fleshed out and even resolved certain kinds of issues and presented new opportunities for others,” Kerry said.

“That’s the name of this game. It’s a tough process, step by step, day by day.”

From Thursday to Sunday, Kerry met three times each with Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during his 10th visit to Israel since assuming his post.

Kerry added that both Netanyahu and Abbas “have remained absolutely steadfast to this effort and committed to the notion that two peoples living side by side in peace and security is a goal worth fighting for, and that the progress being made is sufficient to encourage people to keep going. So that’s exactly what we’re going to do, and I think over the next week we have some very serious homework – all of us – to do.”

On Friday, Kerry surprised a group of university student leaders visiting Israel through the American Jewish Committee’s Project Interchange by dropping in to a briefing being conducted by State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki. Kerry took some questions.

The students on their trip met with Israeli and Palestinian leaders in Israel and Ramallah. The delegation included campus newspaper editors from across the United States and California university student leaders.

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