Kerry Says Israeli-Palestinian Peace Deal Still Possible Next Year

Both sides remain committed to talks, but skepticism runs deep

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Fadi Arouri / AP

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, left, speaks with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, in the West Bank city of Bethlehem on Nov. 6, 2013.

A full peace deal that would end decades of conflict between Israelis and Palestinians can still be reached by the end of April as both sides remain committed to talks, Secretary of State John Kerry told reporters on Friday.

“Both parties remain committed to fulfilling their obligations to stay at the table and negotiate hard during the nine-month period that we set for that,” he said during a news conference at the U.S. Embassy in Tel Aviv, after separate meetings with Palestinian ┬áPresident Mahmoud Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Due to snowfall, his visit with Abbas in Ramallah was cut short, Reuters reports.

Kerry said he doesn’t foresee any adjustments in the schedule, meaning Israel isn’t expected to delay its release of Palestinian prisoners at the end of the year. Over the summer, in a bid to jump-start peace talks that had stalled for three years, Kerry brokered a deal that called for Israel to free 104 Palestinians from its jails. To date, about half of them have been released.

“Our goal remains, as it always has been, for the Israelis and Palestinians to reach a final status agreement, not an interim agreement,” he said. Still, both sides share deep skepticism that the spring deadline will be met. Recently, Kerry and President Barack Obama have talked about forging a framework that doesn’t cover all the details needed for a final deal, but would at least include the most contentious points: mutual recognition, the status of Jerusalem, borders and the fate of Palestinian refugees, among others.

This week’s visit marked Kerry’s ninth to Israel and the Palestinian territories since becoming secretary of state in February.