In Kerry's Mideast announcement, hints of success and challenge

In Kerry's Mideast announcement, hints of success and challenge

WASHINGTON - When Secretary of State John Kerry announced on Friday that Israel and the Palestinians had tentatively agreed to resume peace talks after three years, he did so standing alone as dusk fell over the Jordanian capital.

The image reflects both his achievement and his challenge: few people would have predicted success when he began his quest to get the parties into talks nearly six months ago; yet even as he heralded the planned negotiations, neither was at his side.

In a brief appearance at Jordan's Queen Alia International Airport, Kerry told reporters the Israelis and Palestinians had laid the groundwork to resume direct negotiations.

While acknowledging the agreement was still being "formalized," he said that "if everything goes as expected" the chief Palestinian and Israeli negotiators would come to Washington to start talks in the next week or so and to make a three-way announcement.

Kerry's solo appearance - after four days of face-to-face talks with Palestinian officials and intense phone conversations with their Israeli counterparts - may simply have reflected its timing: just as Muslims were breaking their daily Ramadan fast and Jews were beginning to observe the Sabbath.

However, a former senior US official said Kerry appearing alone might also be viewed as a signal that neither the Israelis nor the Palestinians is as deeply committed to the resumption of talks as the US secretary of state himself.

"In a way, the announcement reflects ... the degree of investment on both sides and the amount of risk that they are prepared to take, which is apparently not much," said the senior official, who spoke on condition that he not be identified.

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