Kerry names Indyk peace envoy, calls for reasonable compromise

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Secretary of State John Kerry, as expected, named veteran diplomat Martin Indyk his new special peace envoy, as Israeli and Palestinian negotiating teams arrived in Washington Monday to begin direct talks for the first time in three years.

Indyk, 62, a former US envoy to Israel and Clinton peace negotiator, “knows what has worked and he knows what hasn’t worked, and he knows how important it is to get this right,” Kerry told reporters at the State Department Monday. “Ambassador Indyk is realistic. He understands that Israeli-Palestinian peace will not come easily and it will not happen overnight.”

“But he also understands that there is now a path forward and we must follow that path with urgency,” Kerry said.

Kerry called on the parties to be willing to make “reasonable compromises on tough, complicated, emotional and symbolic issues,” the Associated Press reported. “I think reasonable compromises have to be a keystone of all of this effort.”

President Obama, in a statement Monday, praised the choice of Indyk, but also sounded a sober note about prospects for a breakthrough.

“The most difficult work of these negotiations is ahead, and I am hopeful that both the Israelis and Palestinians will approach these talks in good faith and with sustained focus and determination,” Obama said in a statement Monday.

An Arab diplomat, speaking not for attribution in an interview to Al-Monitor Monday, praised the pick of Indyk for negotiator, saying he is trusted by all sides, and, importantly, sees the Israeli-Palestinian peace process in a wider, regional context.

The Australian-born Indyk, currently vice president of the Brookings Institution, previously served as US envoy to Israel and as Assistant Secretary of State for Near East affairs. He helped found the think tank, the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. Brookings said Monday he was taking a leave of absence effective immediately to take up his new duties as Special Envoy.

Indyk was recently engaged to Gahl Burt, vice chair of the American Academy in Berlin and former social secretary to Nancy Reagan, diplomatic sources and Indyk associates said.

Longtime Kerry staffer Frank Lowenstein will serve as deputy special envoy, Kerry said.

Kerry will host the parties for an Iftar dinner Monday night, following informal talks between the negotiating teams at the State Department Monday afternoon. Talks are to continue on Tuesday.

The Israelis will be represented in the talks this week by Justice Minister Tzipi Livni and Yitzhak Molcho, and the Palestinians by Chief Negotiator Saeb Erekat and Mohammad Shtayyeh, the State Department said.

“The negotiations ahead promise to be tough and will require active, determined and creative US leadership and diplomacy if they are to succeed,” J Street President Jeremy Ben-Ami said in a press release Monday. “Ambassador Indyk can bring all these attributes to the task. Secretary of State John Kerry could not have chosen a more qualified envoy.”

“We welcome the resumption of talks and express our sincere gratitude to Secretary Kerry for his tireless efforts to revive them,” Ziad J. Asali, President of the American Task Force for Palestine (ATFP), said in a press statement Monday.

(Photo: Secretary of State John Kerry announces former U.S. Ambassador Martin Indyk as his special envoy, at the State Department Monday, July 29, 2013. AP Photo/Charles Dharapak.)