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US Secretary of State John Kerry was Saturday to shuttle back and forth between Israeli and Palestinian leaders for a third day in an intense new phase of talks grasping for a peace deal.
After more than eight hours of talks on Thursday and Friday, Kerry was again to meet with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as he seeks to tie down a framework to guide negotiations towards a peace deal.
But US officials, who had already warned they were not expecting a breakthrough, acknowledged late Friday it was unlikely that agreement on a framework accord would be reached this week, conceding it would take more time.
Kerry met with Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas for some six hours on Friday, and was due to have another round of talks with him in his West Bank headquarters on Saturday.
Both sides have voiced open scepticism about the proposed framework, despite agreeing in July when direct talks were relaunched after a three-year hiatus not to comment in public.
"Netanyahu has serious, serious concerns about the plan as has been presented to him, whether it be on the ability of Israel to defend its borders or the reliability of a Palestinian state and their intentions," visiting Republican Senator John McCain said in Jerusalem after meeting the Israeli leader.
Israelis were particularly concerned about "their overall security, whether it be boundaries, whether it be areas under Palestinian control," he added.
And top Palestinian official Yasser Abed Rabbo was Thursday unenthusiastic about the proposed framework agreement, saying it "limits Palestinian sovereignty" on the West Bank.
But when Kerry was asked if he was gaining any traction in the talks as he met with Abbas in Ramallah, he replied: "Every day (is) progress."
Netanyahu on Thursday had been pessimistic, launching a scathing attack on Abbas.
"I know that you're committed to peace, I know that I'm committed to peace. But unfortunately given the actions and words of Palestinian leaders, there's growing doubt in Israel that the Palestinians are committed to peace," he said.
Referring to Israel's release of long-serving Palestinian prisoners as part of the talks, Netanyahu said Abbas had "embraced terrorists as heroes" saying such glorification was "an outrage."
Kerry has said he is committed to working with both sides "to narrow the differences on a framework that will provide the agreed guidelines for permanent status negotiations".
"This will take time and it will take compromise from both sides," he warned.
US officials have refused to release any details about the framework, but hope to conclude it soon.
The core issues
It has also not yet been decided whether the document will be made public, but it is unlikely to be signed by both sides.
Kerry stressed the framework was building on ideas from both sides over five months of talks, and would set out the agreements and disagreements on the core issues.
These include the contours of a future Palestinian state, refugees, the fate of Jerusalem, security, "mutual recognition and the end of conflict and of all claims," said Kerry.
The Palestinians want borders based on the 1967 lines of before the Six-Day War, when Israel captured the West Bank, including now annexed Arab east Jerusalem.
But Israel wants to retain existing settlements it has built inside occupied Palestinian territory since then.
Israel also wants to maintain a military presence in the Jordan Valley, where the West Bank borders Jordan.
The Palestinians have insisted there be no Israeli troops in their future state, but are open to the idea of an international force to guarantee security.
Kerry's visit also came as Israeli former prime minister Ariel Sharon's health was deteriorating, according to the hospital where he has been comatose for eight years.