Kerry: Direct Israeli-Palestinian Peace Talks to Resume Next Week in Washington

After numerous meetings with Palestinian officials, U.S. Secretary of State convenes press conference in Amman, says agreement establishing basis for Mideast talks has been reached.

Barak Ravid
Jack Khoury
Jonathan Lis
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U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry announced Friday in a press conference in Amman that direct Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations are due to begin next week in Washington.

The announcement comes after Kerry had traveled to the region six times within four months and spent countless hours in talks with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.

"We have reached an agreement that establishes a basis for resuming direct final status negotiations between the Palestinians and the Israelis," he told reporters in Jordan. "The agreement is still in the process of being formalized."

Kerry said that the heads of the negotiation teams of Israel and the Palestinians - Justice Minister Tzipi Livni and Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat - will travel to Washington next week in order to hold preliminary talks and discuss further details on the negotiations.

Kerry's message was short and brief and did not mention what the basis of the peace talks would be. He made no mention of issues such as the 1967 lines, recognition of Israel as a Jewish state, the Palestinian demands for a construction freeze in the settlements, and the release of prisoners.

Kerry stressed that not all details have been finalized and that the in talks next week in Washington the sides will discuss the final details of the principles of the negotiation. Once the talks in Washington will conclude, he will issue another statement, he said.

Kerry also lauded Netanyahu and Abbas for the seriousness that they have showed in recent months.

Abbas, who met with Kerry in Ramallah earlier Friday, said "lengthy talks ... have resulted in the Palestinians accepting the resumption of talks."

In a statement, Abbas said "some details still need to be worked out," but that Israeli and Palestinian officials could be invited to Washington for talks in the coming days.

Justice Minister Tzipi Livni said that "four years of diplomatic impasse are about to end."

"I know that once the talks will begin they will be complicated and not easy," she said. "But I am convinced in all my heart that this is the right thing for our future, our security, our economy, and the values of Israel. The prime minister deserves deep appreciation for making decisions that represent the important interests of Israel."

Opposition leader Shelly Yacimovich welcomed the move but said, "We should not make do with the resumption of talks – we must do everything possible to work toward a real agreement."

A Palestinian source told Haaretz the Palestinians did not wish to as the intransigent side so they agreed to launch the talks for a limited period in order to discuss the principles of the negotiation, focusing on borders in particular. 

Seeking to increase pressure on Israel, U.S. President Barack Obama telephoned Netanyahu Thursday evening. Obama urged Netanyahu to continue cooperating with Kerry and "to resume negotiations with the Palestinians as soon as possible," the White House said. Over the past three months Obama refrained from interfering in Kerry's efforts in the Mideast.

The United Nations welcomed Kerry's announcement in a statement that called it a "positive development," but it also urged both sides to "show leadership, courage, and responsibility to sustain this effort towards achieving the two-state vision."

European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton praised the U.S. envy's efforts and commended Netanyahu and Abbas for their "courage in reaching this point."

"Of course there are difficult negotiations ahead and difficult decisions to take," she added in a statement. "The European Union will make every effort to ensure that negotiations succeed."

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry speaks during a press conference at Queen Alia International Airport on July 19, 2013.Credit: AP
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, left, meets with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in the Ramallah, July 19, 2013.Credit: AP