, WASHINGTON, July 29 – Israeli and Palestinian officials resume direct peace talks Monday after a three year hiatus, amid hopes US Secretary of State John Kerry’s quiet diplomacy may this time carry some chance of success.
In a landmark agreement, the chief negotiators from both sides will meet face to face in Washington to draw up a plan for how the talks will proceed, State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said.
The dream of a Middle East peace deal has for decades been a chimera chased by US presidents but has stalled since September 2010, shot down by deep divisions and distrust between the two sides.
After months of dogged diplomacy, Kerry earlier this month, on his sixth trip to the region, wrested from both sides an accord setting out “the basis for resuming direct final status negotiations,” Psaki said in a statement Sunday.
“The meetings in Washington will mark the beginning of these talks. They will serve as an opportunity to develop a procedural workplan for how the parties can proceed with the negotiations in the coming months.”
Israeli Justice Minister and chief negotiator Tzipi Livni, as well as legal aide Yitzhak Molcho, will meet late Monday with Palestinian chief negotiator Saeb Erakat and senior official Mohammad Shtayyeh for an Iftar dinner hosted by Kerry to break the fast observed during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.
Psaki said initial meetings were planned for both Monday evening and Tuesday.
“Both leaders have demonstrated a willingness to make difficult decisions that have been instrumental in getting to this point. We are grateful for their leadership,” Kerry said in the statement.
The announcement came shortly after Israel said it would release 104 Palestinians imprisoned before the 1993 Oslo peace accords.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met with his cabinet for more than five hours Sunday to persuade some of his coalition partners to accept the release and approve the resumption of talks.