JERUSALEM — Secretary of State John Kerry said Sunday that five months of intensive U.S.-brokered peace talks have made progress toward resolving the hardest issues dividing Israel and the Palestinians but that a deal could slip through his hands.
"The path is becoming clearer. The puzzle is becoming more defined. And it is becoming much more apparent to everybody what the remaining tough choices are," Kerry said after three days of shuttle diplomacy in Israel and the West Bank.
Later Sunday, Kerry met with Jordan's King Abdullah II in Amman and Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah in Riyadh. The two are key Arab players whose support would be crucial to a final deal.
In Riyadh, Kerry praised the Saudi monarch's long support for a regional peace accord that could end Israel's many conflicts with Arab neighbors. Abdullah proposed a comprehensive Arab peace accord in 2002 that Kerry said is "part of the framework we have been piecing together."
The 2002 initiative calls for Israel to give up land taken in the 1967 war, and Israel has never accepted that as the basis for negotiations. In an important amendment last year, the proposals' backers buttressed Kerry's peace effort by saying that the region's 1967 lines could be adjusted by mutual agreement.
The United States is seeking agreement on an outline for a final peace deal Kerry said he wants to forge by the end of April. He has made 10 trips to the region to push both sides to compromise on borders and other issues.
"I cannot tell you when, particularly, the last pieces may decide to fall into place or may fall on the floor and leave the puzzle unfinished," Kerry said in Jerusalem.
His idea for a framework agreement on which to build the final peace deal is a tough request for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas. Both sides have balked at Kerry's terms, according to Israeli and Palestinian news reports.