Israel and the Palestinians are within touching distance of a breakthrough agreement that would end their historic conflict, John Kerry, the US secretary of state, has said. America's top diplomat struck an unexpectedly upbeat note at the end of a 36-hour visit - his eighth to the region this year - that was billed in advance as an attempt to rescue peace talk mired in crisis.
"I believe we are closer than we have been in years to bringing about the peace and the prosperity and the security that all of the people of this region deserve and have been yearning for," Mr Kerry said at Tel Aviv's Ben Gurion airport, adding that he expected to make a return visit in the next two weeks. "The naysayers are wrong to call peace in this region an impossible goal."
Mr Kerry's comments came after three meetings in two days with Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel's prime minister, and another with Mahmoud Abbas, the president of the Palestinian Authority, who had earlier reiterated a threat to seek recourse to the UN if the current negotiations yielded nothing at the end of their nine-month time frame. The positive tone was all the more surprising given the focus on security arrangements after any peace deal.