Middle East peace talks resume as delegates meet in Washington

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Stalled Middle East peace talks will resume in Washington on Monday as high level Palestinian and Israeli envoys meet, the U.S. State Department announced.

“Initial meetings are planned for the evening of Monday July 29 and Tuesday July 30, 2013,” State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said in a statement, reported by AFP news agency.

The move comes as Israel announced plans to release more than a 100 Palestinian prisoners, and represents the first direct dialogue since the peace process fell apart in September 2010.

Secretary of State John Kerry had asked both Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu and asked them to send teams “to formally resume direct final status negotiations.”

Israeli Justice Minister Tzipi Livni and negotiator Yitzhak Molcho have been sent, while on the Palestinian side, chief negotiator Saeb Erakat and senior official Mohammed Shtayyeh will be at the talks.

The struggle to reach a final peace deal between the Arab world and Israel has moved only fitfully for decades, and talks collapsed completely in 2010 when Israel refused freeze settlement building on Palestinian land.

“As Secretary Kerry announced on July 19 in Amman, Jordan, the Israelis and Palestinians had reached agreement on the basis for resuming direct final status negotiations,” the U.S. statement said.

“The meetings in Washington will mark the beginning of these talks. They will serve as an opportunity to develop a procedural workplan for how the parties can proceed with the negotiations in the coming months.”

(With AFP)