RAMALLAH, West Bank — Beginning a tentative round of Middle East shuttle diplomacy, Secretary of State John Kerry is asking for small concessions from both Israel and the Palestinians to smooth the way for new talks, U.S. and other officials said Sunday.
Kerry first visited Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, who has resisted new talks for most of the past four years. His government had sought to file a complaint against Israel with the International Criminal Court over home-building in Jerusalem but put the plan on hold shortly before Kerry arrived.
Kerry was expected to ask Abbas to drop or suspend the complaint as a way to build confidence among Israeli leaders that talks can be fruitful, Arab officials said.
The Palestinian Authority denied that the suspension of the complaint was related to Kerry's visit, but the issue clouded the prospect for talks Kerry hopes to shepherd soon.
Israel's apology last month for a botched raid that killed several Turks on an aid ship helped clear the air among potential Arab backers for any new peace proposal. Other initial Israeli concessions are possible, U.S. and other officials said, although they would not provide details.
The officials spoke to the Washington Post on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to publicly discuss the preliminary diplomacy.
A senior State Department official said that Kerry and Abbas talked about how to create a positive climate for negotiations and that Kerry asked for the specifics to be kept in the room in order to keep moving forward.
Kerry was scheduled to meet with Israeli and Palestinian leaders in Jerusalem today and Tuesday.
Israeli and Palestinian officials have said they expect an intensive two or more months of U.S. work to prepare for formal talks. The Obama administration is trying to lower expectations, but President Barack Obama's trip to Israel last month heralded the new U.S. push.
"As we know, no peace process is easy. It always takes courage and determination, the willingness to speak out to overcome years of mistrust and of bloodshed, and this moment is no different," Kerry said earlier Sunday in Istanbul.
Turkey, he said, will play a significant role.
Israel and Turkey must stick to their agreement to end a nearly three-year estrangement as a building block for wider Middle East peacemaking, Kerry said.
U.S. officials see the Turkey-Israel rapprochement as a key to gaining Muslim and Arab support for new talks between Israel and the Palestinians.