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Israeli, Palestinian Negotiators To Meet Again Within Weeks

  • RFE/RL

U.S. Secretary of State Kerry (center left) hosts the iftar meal at the State Department for Israeli and Palestinian negotiators.

U.S. Secretary of State Kerry (center left) hosts the iftar meal at the State Department for Israeli and Palestinian negotiators.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry says Israeli and Palestinian negotiators will hold their next round of peace talks within two weeks in the region.

Kerry, speaking in Washington with the Israeli and Palestinian negotiators at his side, said the goal is to reach a final deal in the next nine months.

"The parties have agreed here today that all of the final-status issues, all of the core issues, and all other issues are all on the table for negotiation," Kerry said. "And they are on the table with one simple goal: a view to ending the conflict, ending the claims."

The top U.S. diplomat also warned that there is "not much time" to solve the decades-old conflict and urged the sides to embrace compromise. He also said that both have agreed to keep the content of negotiatIions confidential.

The Israeli side in the negotiations is led by Tzipi Livni, a former foreign minister who was active in a previous, ill-fated round of peace talks initiated by former U.S. President George W. Bush's administration.

"A new opportunity has been created for us, for all of us, and we cannot afford to waste it," Livni said. "Now, I hope that our meeting today and the negotiations that we have relaunched today will cause, I hope, a spark of hope, even if small, to emerge out of cynicism and pessimism that are so often heard."

The Palestinian team is led by chief negotiator Saeb Erekat, who has been a major player in failed negotiations with the Israelis since 1991.

Erekat expressed willingness to delve into the host of issues that divide the sides after the talks in Washington dealt mainly with the framework for negotiations.

"Palestinians have suffered enough. And no one benefits more from the success of this endeavor more than Palestinians," Erekat said. "I'm delighted that all final-status issues are on the table and will be resolved, without any exceptions."

Ahead of a meeting with Kerry at the State Department, Livni and Erekat met with President Barack Obama at the White House.

The White House said that Obama praised the "courage" of Israeli and Palestinian negotiators during the meeting.

Before their White House meeting, Israeli and Palestinian negotiators met together without American mediators.

Talks officially began late on July 29.

This is the Obama administration's third attempt to restart the stalled talks.

In a statement, the United Nations, European Union, United States, and Russia -- the so-called quartet -- welcomed the resumption of peace talks.

Kerry spent much of his first six months as secretary of state engaged in shuttle diplomacy, making six trips to the region in an effort to push Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority President Mahmud Abbas toward the resumption of negotiations.

Talks have been frozen since September 2010, when the Palestinians terminated contacts with the Jewish state after it refused to extend a moratorium on settlement-building in the West Bank.

The major issues to be resolved include borders, the future of settlements in the West Bank, the fate of Palestinian refugees, and the status of Jerusalem.

The Palestinians want a state in the West Bank, Gaza, and east Jerusalem -- territories Israel captured in 1967 -- but have accepted the principle of limited land swaps.

The Israelis view the entirety of Jerusalem as the capital of the Jewish state.

As a goodwill gesture, the Israeil parliament voted on July 28 to free 104 Palestinian prisoners in four stages that are linked to progress in the current talks.

Based on reporting by AP and Reuters