Mahmoud Abbas' comments came two days after Kerry ended his latest peace mission to the region without any breakthroughs. While Kerry said he had narrowed the gaps between the sides, the lack of any visible progress has led to pessimism on both sides.
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At a news conference, Abbas said Kerry presented "useful and constructive suggestions" and promised to return to the region soon. Kerry left aides behind to continue the mediation efforts.
"We are optimistic because he is serious and determined to reach a solution," Abbas said at a joint appearance with visiting Italian Prime Minister Enrico Letta.
Kerry's efforts have placed the Palestinians in a delicate position. They do not want to be blamed for any failure. At the same time, if they resume talks on Netanyahu's terms, Abbas would go against Palestinian public opinion.
In an interview with the Italian newspaper Corriere Della Sera, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu played down these comments, saying he was committed to seeing Kerry succeed and ready to start serious negotiations.
"I said that Secretary Kerry's effort should be supported. If he were to pitch a tent between my office here in Jerusalem and Abu Mazen's office in Ramallah then I would enter that tent immediately and I would stay in it so that we can devote serious effort to try to resolve the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians," Netanyahu said.
"The only way you can get to the end of the negotiations is to begin them, so we should get on with them – begin negotiations," the prime minister added.
In the press conference, Abbas addressed Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyhau's remarks, saying "there's nothing that keeps us from meeting. We are prepared to meet at any time. We are determined to reach peace with the Israelis. They are our neighbors and we recognize that. They and we need to live in security and stability."
The Palestinian president added that time was of the essence in light of developments in the region.
Kerry's talks package is expected to include incentives to both sides, including limits to Israeli settlement construction, guarantees to the Palestinians that border issues will be discussed in a timely manner, security guarantees to Israel, international financial aid to the Palestinians and release of some Palestinian prisoners held by Israel.
Elior Levy contributed to this report
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