U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry convened a press conference Tuesday following the start of Israeli-Palestinian peace talks in Washington. The sides will hold their next round of peace talks within the next two weeks in Israel or the Palestinian territories, he said.
Kerry praised the sides for their engagement, adding that "both Netanyahu and Abbas have both demonstrated courageous leadership."
Flanked by Justice Minister Tzipi Livni and Palestinian chief negotiator Saeb Erekat, Kerry said "the parties have agreed that all of the final status issues, core issues and other issues are on the table for negotiations." He added that the objective is to reach a final status agreement within nine months. The meeting in Washington Tuesday represents the first direct negotiations since 2010.
During the press conference, Livni said Kerry has shown that nothing can stop a “true believer.” She said that despite the hope, Israel cannot afford to be naïve and promised “to do everything for the security of Israel."
“It is not going to be easy. It will be hard with ups and downs. We are not going to argue about the past but talk about the future,” she said. "There is a new opportunity, and we can't afford to waste it.”
Erekat spoke briefly at the press conference saying "Palestinians have suffered enough and no one will benefit more from this process than the Palestinians."
The two sides have agreed to keep the content of the meetings confidential, Kerry said, adding that only he will be making comments on the this.
The Quartet of Middle East peace mediators urged Israelis and Palestinians on Tuesday to avoid actions that undermine new peace negotiations.
Senior aides to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas held their first talks this week since 2010.
"The Quartet ... calls on all parties to take every possible step to promote conditions conducive to the success of the negotiating process and to refrain from actions that undermine," the group, made up of the United States, Russia, the United Nations and the European Union said in a statement.
Earlier on Tuesday, U.S. President Barack Obama stepped up his personal involvement in American efforts to advance the peace process between Israelis and Palestinians. Obama held a joint meeting at the White House with both Israeli and Palestinian negotiating teams.
Obama, who has largely refrained from speaking out on Israeli-Palestinian peace talks over the past four months, released a statement on Monday praising the two sides for returning to the table. "This is a promising step forward, though hard work and hard choices remain ahead," he said.
The negotiations began at 3 P.M. (8 A.M. Washington time), as U.S. special envoy for Middle East peace, Martin Indyk, met with the negotiating teams at the State Department in Washington. From there the two teams departed for the White House, for their meeting with President Obama.
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