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Kerry lays wreath at Holocaust memorial, talks Mideast peace

Secretary of State John Kerry wants to resuscitate Mideast peace talks. In meetings with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and other senior and Israeli and Palestinian officials Kerry said he believed peace was possible. NBC's Catherine Chomiak reports. 

Looking to kickstart long-stalled peace talks while traveling in the Middle East, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said he will first work on breaking down mistrust between Palestinians and Israelis but so far refuses to publicly offer any specific details of any fresh, or modified, peace plan.


After meeting with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas on Sunday, Kerry spent Monday — Israel’s Holocaust memorial day — first laying down a red, white and blue wreath at Yad Vashem, the official monument for the 6 million Jews murdered during World War II. He then met with Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad and Israeli President Shimon Peres.

Kerry hinted at only a broad outline of his strategy to revive peace negotiations.

“There are reasons that mistrust has built up," Kerry said on Monday. “I am convinced that we can break that down, but I'm not going to do it under guidelines or time limits.”

Kerry, who said he's already begun discussions surrounding mistrust issues between Palestinians and Jews, said he would explore “what that process ought to be appropriately that satisfies needs.”

He also mentioned economic issues as critical to “changing perceptions and realities on the ground” and creating momentum for peace.

In remarks with Peres on Monday, Kerry said he believes peace is possible.

“I am convinced there is a road forward,” Kerry said. “And I look forward to the discussions with your leaders and yourself regarding how that road could be sort of reignited, if you will, once again setting out on that path.”

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry speaks to Israeli President Shimon Peres Monday about President Barack Obama's support for Israel in the face of threats made by Iran.

Peres noted "a new sense of optimism, of hope."

"My dear friend, there is a new wind of peace blowing through the Middle East," Peres said.

At a dinner Kerry met with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. 

Kerry is attempting to break loose a 4½-year stalemate between the Israelis and Palestinians during which there has been intense fighting and the two sides have rarely talked peace. Kerry was making his third trip to the region in two weeks.

Palestinian and Arab officials have pointed to a revival, with modifications, of a 2002 Arab Peace Initiative that offered a comprehensive peace with Israel in exchange for a pullout from territories captured in the 1967 Mideast war – the West Bank, east Jerusalem and the Golan Heights – that Israel says is unacceptable. 

The Palestinian officials, The Associated Press reported, say Kerry is seeking greater Arab-Israeli security commitments and softer language on borders as part of the plan.

A senior State Department official, however, denied to the AP that Kerry was proposing changes to the plan, and Kerry gave no hint of specific proposals on Monday.

The annual Holocaust remembrance is a solemn day in Israel in which restaurants, cafes and theaters shut down. Radio and TV stations air documentaries about the Holocaust as well as interviews with survivors and somber music. A two-minute siren was sounded earlier in the day to honor victims.

President Barack Obama, who visited Yad Vashem on his trip to Israel last month, issued a statement saying the day offered a chance to remember the "beautiful lives lost" and to "pay tribute to all those who resisted the Nazis' heinous acts and all those who survived." 

Kerry said the wailing of the sirens in the morning "had a profound impact on me. It was impressive."

NBC News' Catherine Chomiak and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Secretary of State John Kerry began his overseas trip on a somber note when he described the loss of 25-year-old American diplomat Anne Smedinghoff, who was killed after a car explosion in Afghanistan.  NBC's Catherine Chomiak reports.

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