Kerry says agreement for Israeli-Palestinian peace talks to resume

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Secretary of State John Kerry announced Friday that Israeli and Palestinian negotiators would come to Washington next week to begin peace talks, but said that details for resumed negotiations remain to be finalized.

“On behalf of president Obama, I am pleased to announce that we have reached an agreement that establishes a basis for resuming direct final status negotiations between the Palestinians and the Israelis,” Kerry said in a press conference in Amman Friday, at the end of his sixth trip this year to the Middle East to try to get the parties back to the peace table for the first time in three years. “This is a significant and and welcome step forward.”

Kerry said he will continue to keep the details of the discussions with the parties under wraps given the sensitivity and fragility of the basis for final status peace negotiations.

“The best way to give these negotiations a chance is to keep them private,” Kerry said. “We know that the challenges require some very tough choices in the days ahead. Today, however, I am hopeful.”

Israeli Justice Minister Tzipi Livni, Israeli negotiator Itzhak Molho, and Palestinian negotiator Saab Erekat are expected to represent the parties at talks in Washington in the next week or so, Kerry said.

Kerry spoke to reporters in Amman after extending his trip to meet with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas in Ramallah, the West Bank.

After his press conference, Kerry and his entourage boarded his flight to return to Washington. When Kerry entered the plane, his staff burst into applause, Bloomberg's Nicole Gaouette reported.

The parties, however, expressed ambivalence at the prospective talks–and the consequences of their potential breakdown. The Obama administration launched high-profile Israeli-Palestinian peace talks in 2010, only to have them collapse a few weeks later after Israel refused to extend a one-year partial freeze on Jewish settlement construction in the West Bank.

“We actually want the talks and we want a deal–which doesn’t mean we’ll necessarily do what it takes to secure one; that may turn out to be a step too far, depends on the Palestinians,” an Israeli official, speaking not for attribution, mused Friday evening.

“As to where this leads, that’s another question,” he said. “The more common thought passing through everyone’s after-dinner conversation tonight is that this probably means we can expect a terror attack in the not too distant future.”

(Photo: U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry steps off a helicopter after flying from Amman, Jordan, to Ramallah, West Bank, to meet with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas on July 19, 2013. State Department photo/ Public Domain.)

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