Kerry: Mideast talks 'constructive'

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TEL AVIV, Israel -- U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry wrapped up three days of high-level Mideast diplomacy on a positive note Tuesday, saying he held "very constructive talks" with Israeli and Palestinian leaders and promising to press on in an effort to break a four-year deadlock over resuming direct negotiations.

Talking to reporters after private talks with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Kerry said the parties all committed to a process that could "create the conditions for peace" so that they can return to the negotiating table. Kerry said he would soon announce new measures to help the Palestinian economy, but offered no details on how he plans to tackle the deeper issues at the heart of the decades-old Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Kerry stressed that he was mindful of the "good intentions and failed efforts" that have dogged Middle East diplomacy in the past and said he'd focus on "laying the groundwork so we can bring people to the table with a clear understanding of what we're beginning on, what we're trying to do, and where we're trying to end up."

Kerry, who has committed the United States to a multi-month diplomatic effort, stressed that he was being intentionally coy on the specifics of his new peace push. "It's not going to be done and shouldn't be done in piecemeal public releases," he said. "It's best done quietly."

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Peace talks broke down in late 2008 and have remained frozen since. The Palestinians have refused to resume talks while Israel continues to build settlements in the West Bank and east Jerusalem, areas where the Palestinians hope to establish an independent state.

Kerry sought to lower expectations ahead of this week's trip, his third to the region since becoming secretary of state, saying he was coming primarily to listen and learn. But he made clear that his aim is to move beyond goodwill gestures and resume talks on the issues at the heart of the conflict. -- AP

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