Fresh Mideast Talks Start, US Pushes Nine-Month Timetable

Fresh Mideast Talks Start, US Pushes Nine-Month Timetable
# 30 July 2013 18:55 (UTC +04:00)

“Our objective will be to achieve a final status agreement over the next nine months,” US Secretary of State John Kerry, flanked by Israeli Justice Minister Tzipi Livni and Saeb Erekat, the chief negotiator for the Palestinian officials invited to the US-brokered talks, said in a prepared statement to reporters.

Kerry described the Israeli-Palestinian meetings in Washington Monday and Tuesday, including a session with President Barack Obama, as “constructive and positive” and said the two sides had agreed to “remain engaged in sustained, continuous and substantive negotiations on the core issues.”

Kerry, who invested heavily in bringing this week’s renewed talks about, said the two sides would meet again within two weeks in Israel or the Palestinian territories to being the process of formal negotiation and said all issues would be open for discussion.

“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, adding that all involved had agreed that he – Kerry – alone was authorized to comment publicly on the progress of the talks.

Those “final status issues” – definition of the borders of a Palestinian state, the status of Jerusalem, the right of return for Palestinian refugees and security details including the military capability of any future Palestinian state – have long proven insurmountable in repeated efforts to forge a Mideast peace pact.

Erekat led a team representing the Fatah faction that claims to be the legitimate leader of the Palestinian people. The Hamas faction, which governs in the Israeli-occupied Gaza Strip, is classified by the United States and others as a terrorist organization and was not represented at the Washington talks.

Speaking after Kerry, Erekat indicated that at least Fatah believed that the time had come for an end to the Mideast status-quo.

“The Palestinians have suffered enough,” he said. “It’s time for the Palestinian people to have an independent, sovereign state of their own.”

Speaking for Israel, Livni described the Middle East as a “troubled and changing” region and said it was time for a fresh concerted effort to resolve the region’s core conflict.

“I hope that our meeting today and the negotiations we have relaunched today will cause a spark of hope to emerge out of the cynicism and pessimism that is so often heard,” Livni said.

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