US President Barack Obama has welcomed the start of the talks, calling them, a “promising step” forward but warning of “hard choices” ahead.
Israelis and Palestinians have resumed direct talks for the first time in three years, with the United States urging negotiators to make tough compromises to reach a peace deal, Al Jazeera reports. Israeli chief negotiator Tzipi Livni and her Palestinian counterpart Saeb Erakat sat side-by-side opposite top US diplomat John Kerry to share a traditional Muslim iftar meal in Washington DC on Monday.
Kerry, who has staked much of his reputation on bringing both sides back to the talks, first met with the teams separately. He was due also host a three-way meeting later on Tuesday, accompanied by the two negotiators. Kerry was flanked at the dinner by seasoned diplomat Martin Indyk, who he named earlier as the US special envoy to the talks, and by White House Middle East advisor Phil Gordon.
US President Barack Obama has welcomed the start of the talks, calling the, a “promising step” forward but warning of “hard choices” ahead. “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,” he said. Obama promised the US is ready to support both sides “with the goal of achieving two states, living side by side in peace and security”. Kerry also warned that “many difficult choices lie ahead for the negotiators and for the leaders as we seek reasonable compromises on tough, complicated, emotional and symbolic issues. “I think reasonable compromise has to be a keystone of all of this effort.” The two sides have agreed to continue talking for at least nine months, a State Department official said.
“We’re going to make every effort to reach an agreement within that time frame, but… if we’re making progress and we’re continuing to make progress, this is not a deadline,” spokeswoman Jen Psaki said. Indyk, 62, who has twice served as US ambassador to Israel and participated in the failed Camp David summit in 2000 under then president Bill Clinton, said he was taking on “a daunting and humbling” challenge.
Livni, speaking earlier after meeting UN chief Ban Ki-moon in New York, said the path ahead was “going to be very tough and problematic”.
Israeli President Shimon Peres, on a visit to Latvia, also hailed the resumption of talks. “We want to establish a two-state solution of a Palestinian state beside the state of Israel, living in peace and friendship and bringing an end to all conflict, which is so necessary today for all the people in the Middle East,” he said.
On Monday, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas sought to lay out his vision for the talks, asserting that no Israeli settlers or border forces should be allowed to remain in a future Palestinian state, and reiterated the Palestinian position that the 1967 borders were non-negotiable. Abbas’s firm statements appeared to challenge mediator Kerry’s hopes that the terms of the talks be kept secret.“In a final solution, we would not see the presence of a single Israeli – civilian or soldier – on our lands,” Abbas told Egyptian journalists in Cairo where he met Egypt’s interim president Adli Mansour.
The talks resumed after three years as Israel approved the release of more than 100 Palestinian prisoners.