Israeli and Palestinian leaders agreed Thursday to produce a framework for a permanent peace deal and to hold a second round of direct talks this month followed by regular meetings, a modest achievement reached amid deep skepticism about success at their first such session in two years.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas will meet again on Sept. 14 and 15 in the Middle East, likely at the Egyptian Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheik, with an eye toward forging the outline of a pact that could lead to a final agreement in a year's time.
The United States' special Mideast envoy George Mitchell announced the agreement after several hours of talks between Netanyahu and Abbas at the State Department at which the two leaders pledged to work through the region's deeply ingrained mutual hostility and suspicion to resolve the long-running conflict.
"I believe these two leaders - President Abbas and Prime Minister Netanyahu - are committed to doing what it takes to achieve the right results," Mitchell told reporters, explaining that following the Sept. 14-15 round of talks, negotiation teams, headed by the two leaders, would meet every two weeks.
"They agreed that for these negotiations to succeed, [the talks] must be kept private and treated with sensitivity," Mitchell said, adding that "both Netanyahu and Abbas condemned all forms of violence that target innocent civilians. They reiterated a common goal of two states for two peoples."
"They agreed these negotiations can be completed in one year. They agreed that the logical next step will be working and achieving a frame agreement - establishing a necessary compromise that will lead to the treaty," Mitchell added.
"They agreed that in their actions and statements they will create atmosphere conducive to agreement," the Mideast envoy went on to say.
Mitchell said both he and U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton would be present at the next round of talks. Diplomats said it will likely also include other officials from the Quartet of Mideast peace negotiators - the U.S., the UN, Russia and the European Union.
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