Kerry Returns From Asia, Mind on Middle East

YOKOTA AIR BASE, Japan (AP/Hamodia) -

The secretary of state’s plane headed east toward Washington Tuesday on the final leg of a 22,500-mile trip through Asia and the Middle East. But for John Kerry, sleepless and hoarse from days of diplomacy, the plane was flying in the wrong direction.

After reportedly gaining traction on a fragile plan to persuade Israel and the Palestinians back into peace talks, Kerry didn’t want to go east. He wanted to go west — back to Israel and Ramallah to bring the two sides closer together.

After four days of shuttling between meetings with both parties in Jordan, Israel and Ramallah, Kerry declared in Tel Aviv that with a little more work, he believed final status negotiations could be “within reach.”

Kerry said if he hadn’t had to attend an Asian conference in Brunei, he would have stayed in the Mideast to try to hammer out an agreement to restart the talks aimed at finding a two-state solution to the decades-long conflict.

The main substance of the trip was the more than 19 hours of discussions Kerry and his advisers had with Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas. Kerry bounced back and forth between the two sides at breakneck speed to try to get them to resume negotiations, which broke down in 2008. In the end, the two sides were closer together, but still apart.

However, when Secretary of State spokeswoman Jen Psaki was pressed for details of progress in the peace process during a press conference on Tuesday, she said that the content of discussions will be kept private for the time being, The Jerusalem Post reported.

“The Secretary [of State John Kerry] believes, as many of the parties believe, that the best way to create the conditions for both parties going back to the table is for those talks and conversations to remain private,” Psaki said.

She was answering a series of questions from reporters demanding concrete evidence of the “real progress made” during Kerry’s recent visit to the region.