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Obama Meets Israeli, Palestinian Negotiators

July 30, 2013

by VOA News

U.S. President Barack Obama met privately at the White House with Israeli and Palestinian negotiators Tuesday, a day after the two sides held the first direct peace talks in nearly three years.

It was not immediately clear what Obama, Israeli Justice Minister Tzipi Livni and lead Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erakat discussed during the closed-door meeting, which had not been listed on the president's official schedule.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry hosted the two sides for dinner Monday night, after urging them to make "reasonable compromises" in the negotiations.

Kerry said the issues at stake are tough, complicated, emotional and symbolic, but that the consequences of not trying to negotiate could be worse.

Former U.S. Ambassador to Israel Martin Indyk will be the main American envoy helping guide the talks. He said Monday he will do his best to achieve President Obama's vision of two states living side by side in peace and security.

State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said Israel and the Palestinians have agreed to hold direct negotiations for at least nine months. But she says this is not a deadline and that the talks will not automatically stop after that period.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu agreed to free 104 Palestinian prisoners as a condition to restart the talks. Israeli media say the prisoners include Palestinians convicted of deadly attacks against Israeli civilians and security forces.

Ultranationalist Israeli Cabinet ministers say freeing the prisoners would be a reward for terrorism. But Mr. Netanyahu told his ministers the decision was difficult for him and the families of those killed, but necessary to renew the peace process.

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