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Palestinians say peace talks near

RAMALLAH, West Bank — Palestinian officials said Thursday that Secretary of State John Kerry is closing in on an agreement between Israel and the Palestinians to relaunch peace talks for a period of six to nine months.

Kerry said earlier this week that he had narrowed the gaps between the sides. He is expected back in the region in the near future.

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The Palestinians want Israel to halt construction of Jewish settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, occupied areas where they hope to establish a state, before talks resume.

Two Palestinian officials said Kerry’s plan calls for a halt in settlement construction outside of major blocs that Israel expects to keep.

The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to talk to the media. Israeli officials had no immediate comment.

After four days of meetings with both parties in Jordan, Israel, and the West Bank, Kerry declared in Tel Aviv this week that with a little more work, he believed final status negotiations could be ‘‘within reach.’’

Kerry said if he hadn’t had to attend an Asian conference in Brunei, he would have stayed in the Mideast to try to complete an agreement to restart the talks aimed at finding a two-state solution to the decades-long conflict.

Kerry and his aides held more than 19 hours of discussions with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to try to get them to resume negotiations, which broke down in 2008.

There is much skepticism that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is on its way to resolution, but Kerry remains energized in the effort, and he was on the phone with the staff he left behind in region during his flight to Brunei and home to Washington.

In a rare upbeat assessment of US mediation efforts, the Palestinian president said Tuesday that he is optimistic that Kerry will succeed in restarting Israeli-Palestinian peace talks. ‘‘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.

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