Kerry: deal reached on basis to resume Mideast peace talks

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry (L) meets with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas at the Mukataa compound, in the West Bank city of Ramallah July 19, 2013. (Reuters)

Israelis and Palestinians have reached an agreement for the groundwork to resume peace talks, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry announced on Friday.

“I’m pleased to announce that we’ve reached an agreement that establishes a basis for resuming final status negotiations between the Palestinians and the Israelis,” Kerry told reporters in Amman, Jordan.

“The agreement is still in the process of being formalized,” he added.

Kerry added that Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erakat and his Israeli counterpart Tzipi Livni would meet him in Washington “to begin initial talks within the next week or so.”

Peacemaking has ebbed and flowed for two decades, last breaking down in late 2010 over Israel’s settlements in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem, where, along with the Gaza Strip, Palestinians seek statehood.

The Palestinians, with international backing, have said that state must have borders approximating the territories’ boundaries before Israel captured them in the 1967 Middle East War - a demand hard to reconcile with the Jewish state’s insistence on keeping swathes of settlements under any eventual peace accord.

Israeli and Palestinian officials welcomed Kerry’s announcement cautiously. Both sides face hardline opposition athome to compromise in a stubborn conflict of turf and faith.

“I know that as soon as the negotiations start, they will be complex and not easy,” Tzipi Livni, the Israeli Cabinet minister in charge of the diplomatic drive, wrote on Facebook, Reuters reported. “But I am convinced with all my heart that it is the right thing to do for our future, our security, our economy and the values of Israel.”

Wasel Abu Youssef, a senior member of the umbrella Palestine Liberation Organization, told Reuters: “The announcement today did not mean the return to negotiations. It meant efforts would continue to secure the achievement of Palestinian demands ...Israel must recognize the 1967 borders.”
 

 (With AFP and Reuters)

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