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Israeli, Palestinian Negotiators To Meet Again Within Weeks

July 30, 2013


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.

Speaking in Washington with the Israeli and Palestinian negotiators at his side -- Israeli Justice Minister Tzipi Livni and senior Palestinian official Saeb Erekat -- Kerry said the goal of the talks is to reach a final deal in the next nine months.

He added that this week's round of talks was positive and constructive and he was convinced that the two sides could make peace.

He said that "reasonable, principled compromise" in the name of peace will benefit both sides.

Earlier on July 30, according to a White House official who spoke on condition of anonymity, President Barack Obama met privately with Livni and Erekat, one day after they restarted long-stalled peace negotiations.

The meetings came after two days in which the Israelis and Palestinians held their first peace talks in nearly three years. U.S. officials said the two sides met at the State Department on July 30 without American mediators.

Direct talks collapsed in September 2010 over continued Israeli settlement building.

Livni and Erekat sat with Kerry for the traditional Muslim iftar meal to open discussions.

"We live in a tough neighborhood," Livini told Reuters regarding Israel's point of view via-a-vis the negotiations. "To be optimistic is something that we cannot afford. But there is some hope. And I hope that when in Israel they see the first meeting they will understand that we should not give up hope, and it is reachable and we need to do it, because it is in the Israeli interest. It is not a favor to the United States or to the Palestinians. This is something that we need to do."

Livni said after the first meeting that Kerry had asked all the negotiators to keep the details of their talks confidential.

"The understanding with the United States is that in order to succeed we would not share [with] the public what is going to happen in the negotiating room," she said. "And Secretary Kerry is the only one that can speak on behalf of all of us, so I am not going to enter this discussion publicly. We are going to discuss it in the negotiating room."

Joining the group in the iftar meal was Martin Indyk, whom Kerry named as the U.S. special envoy to the talks just hours before the meeting. Kerry had been engaged in intensive shuttle diplomacy between Israeli, Palestinian, and Arab leaders to get the talks restarted.

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 Reuters, AFP, and dpa


Copyright (c) 2013. RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036.

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