"Israel, Palestinians Must Take Hard Decisions"

"I know this region well enough to know there is scepticism, in some quarters there is cynicism, and there are reasons for it".

Tags: John Kerry
Uzi Baruch & AFP ,

John Kerry in Ramallah
John Kerry in Ramallah
AFP photo

US Secretary of State John Kerry urged Israeli and Palestinian Authority leaders on Friday to take "hard decisions" to revive the Middle East peace process, which has stalled for almost three years.

"We're getting toward a time now when hard decisions need to be made," he told a news conference in Tel Aviv at the end of his fourth visit to the
region since he took office in February.

Kerry has been pressing Israel and the PA to resume peace talks that broke down in September 2010. He said there was "one way" to make peace a reality, "and that is through direct negotiations.

"Ultimately it is the Israeli and Palestinian people who both decide the outcome... and who will get the greatest benefits" from a resumption of talks, he said.

"I know this region well enough to know there is scepticism, in some quarters there is cynicism, and there are reasons for it. There have been
bitter years of disappointment," he said.   

But he insisted: "It is our hope that by being methodical, careful, patient, but detailed and tenacious, that we can lay on a path ahead that can
conceivably surprise people and certainly exhaust the possibilities for peace." And in a powerful message to PA Arabs, who are used to just seeing American motorcades sweep by into Abbas's high-walled headquarters compound, Kerry went for a stroll along a Ramallah street. 

Despite public pronouncements of support, there is growing frustration that there has been little sign of a shift in the long-held positions of the two

Kerry also warned on Friday that there was a time limit on the possibility of peace, after Thursday comments from British Foreign Secretary William Hague -- also on a visit to the region -- that the prospects of a two-state solution "cannot be kept alive forever."

"It is clear that in the long run the status quo is not sustainable," Kerry said. The secretary of state also touched on the sensitive issue of Jewish
construction in Judea, Samaria and eastern Jerusalem, one of the principal issues over which the 2010 talks stalled.

"The US position on settlements is clear and has not changed... we believe they should stop," he said.