Kerry to travel back to Middle East

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Secretary of State John Kerry is traveling back to Israel and the West Bank Wednesday for the second time in a week, the State Department announced Monday afternoon.

“In Jerusalem, Secretary Kerry will meet with Prime Minister [Benjamin] Netanyahu to discuss a range of issues including Iran and the ongoing final status negotiations with the Palestinians. In Ramallah, Secretary Kerry will meet with [Palestinian] President [Mahmoud] Abbas, where he will also discuss the ongoing final status negotiations, among other issues,” Spokeswoman Jen Psaki said in a statement.

The meetings are set begin Thursday.  

Kerry traveled to both regions last Thursday and met Netanyahu and Abbas at the time.

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On Monday, Netanyahu told his Likud Party colleagues in a meeting that they were not close to reaching a peace agreement with the Palestinians.

That statement contradicts what Kerry had expressed to reporters before leaving Tel Aviv on Friday.

“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," he said then.

Kerry has been working to help bridge a final status agreement between the two parties by May 2014. In July, Kerry began the direct talks. 

This week’s trip marks Kerry’s eighth visit to Israel and the Palestinian territory as America’s top diplomat, according to State Department records.

Kerry first traveled to the region for meetings in mid-March and has returned almost every month since.

From the Middle East, Kerry will travel to Vietnam and the Philippines and will visit Ho Chi Mihn City, Hanoi, Tacloban and Manila. He’ll discuss U.S. trade and economic partnerships with those nations, and the issue of education. 

The trip ends Dec. 18.