US Secretary of State John Kerry warned on Wednesday that the two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict could be dead within two years.

“I believe the window for a two-state solution is shutting,” Kerry told the US House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee. “I think we have some period of time, a year, a year-and-a-half, or two years or it’s over.”

The secretary of state’s comments come amid a renewed US drive to rekindle direct negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians, which have been largely frozen since late 2008.

US President Barack Obama – along with Kerry – visited Israel last month to speak with Israeli and Palestinian leaders. Kerry returned again last week for further meetings, and promised to come back shortly.

He is scheduled to unveil a plan soon to improve the Palestinian economy in hopes that it would help the Palestinians return to the table.

Before leaving for London on Tuesday night for the funeral of former British prime minister Margaret Thatcher, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said, “We are committed to our aspiration for peace, a peace that will be based on the principle of two states for two peoples, a Jewish state alongside a demilitarized Palestinian state.”

“But in order for the peace to last, it must be anchored in security,” he continued.

“The State of Israel must be able to defend itself by itself; its security will be a main component of any future peace agreement.”

Netanyahu discussed the frozen peace talks along with the dangers of a nuclear Iran and Syria’s civil war in meetings with Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper and British Prime Minister David Cameron on Wednesday in London.

The meetings were private and no statements were issued afterward.

Palestinians have insisted they will not hold direct negotiations with Israel unless it halts West Bank settlement activity and Jewish building in east Jerusalem.

Israel has refused to cede to that request and has urged the Palestinians to come to the table without preconditions.

Kerry is now seeking a way to break a four-year deadlock over the issue.

The secretary of state told the House Foreign Affairs Committee that because he sees only a two-year window, “there is an urgency to this in my mind, and I intend, on behalf of the president’s instructions, to honor that urgency and see what we can do to move forward.”

Kerry explained that the mistrust on both sides made it difficult.

“[Palestinian Authority] President [Mahmoud] Abbas deep down is not convinced – and that may be a light word for it – that Prime Minister Netanyahu and Israel are ever going to give them a state,” he said.

“And on the other side, Israel is not convinced that the Palestinians and others are ever going to give them the security that they need.”

In response to Kerry’s words, an Israeli official noted that it was the Palestinians who wasted the last four years by refusing to negotiate.

But the bulk of Netanyahu’s trip dealt with Syria and Iran, particularly in light of the possibility that the European Union might lift its arms embargo against Syria at the end of the month. The UK is among those European countries that have spoken of sending arms to the Syrian opposition forces.

Without taking a strong stand against the idea, Israel has urged caution on arming the rebels, noting that one has to be more specific with regard to which of the rebel groups one would ship the arms and which weapons would be sent to them.

Next week, EU governments are expected to ease an embargo on Syrian oil to allow for purchases of crude from the opposition in an effort to tilt the balance of the conflict against President Bashar Assad.

At a meeting on Monday, EU foreign ministers are also expected to agree to lift restrictions on selling equipment for the oil industry to the opposition and investing in the state’s oil sector, EU diplomats said on Wednesday.

The move is part of a broader EU undertaking to support the Syrian rebels, waging a two-year-old uprising against Assad in which an estimated 70,000 people have died and the conflict is broadly stalemated.

It aims to give the insurgents much-needed cash for infrastructure repairs and to build up local governance, and, possibly, to fund purchases of arms. But conditions would apply to ensure that no business is done with supporters of Assad.

“The purchases will be allowed when an EU government authorizes them after consultations with the [opposition] National Coalition,” an EU diplomat told Reuters.

The lifting of oil sanctions may bolster the credibility of the Syrian National Coalition – an umbrella organization of the opposition – among Syrians opposing Assad.

Reuters contributed to this report.

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