Kerry wins step to resuming Mideast peace talks

Published on NewsOK Modified: July 19, 2013 at 5:27 pm •  Published: July 19, 2013
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Thursday night, the Palestinian leadership did not repeat the settlement freeze demand. But officials said they wanted guarantees the 1967 lines would be the basis for talks, saying that if Israel accepts that, it would make most of the settlements illegitimate.

Kerry's announcement suggested that the issue had been resolved. In a statement issued after Kerry spoke, Abbas said "lengthy talks ... have resulted in the Palestinians accepting the resumption of talks."

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.

A senior State Department official said the two sides had agreed on the core elements that will allow direct talks to move forward, and that agreement was not reached until Friday afternoon.

Still to be worked out in the upcoming initial talks is the process of the final status negotiations, including the agenda, the official said. When the sides first meet, they will not be "sitting down to draw a line on the map," the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss the details.

One question still unanswered is whether the tentative agreement reached by Kerry involved Israel explicitly accepting a reference to the 1967 lines — or if it involves the U.S. acting as guarantor that they will be the basis for negotiations.

Previous Israeli governments twice negotiated on the basis of the 1967 lines, with talks focusing on land exchanges. But besides disagreeing over how much land to trade and where, the two sides hit logjams on other key issues, including dividing Jerusalem and the fate of Palestinian refugees.

Netanyahu has given lukewarm endorsement to the idea of a Palestinian state but has not delineated his vision of boundaries, while demanding that the Palestinians recognize Israel as the Jewish state. Palestinians reject that, concerned that it would undermine their claims that millions of refugees and their descendants have the right to return to their original homes, lost in the 1948-49 war surrounding Israel's creation. Israel has rejected that claim outright.

While Kerry has not publicized details of his plan, an Arab League decision Wednesday to endorse his proposal raised speculation that the Palestinians would agree. Abbas traditionally has sought the blessing of his Arab brethren before making any major diplomatic initiative.

Ahmed Majdalani, a Palestinian leader, said Kerry has proposed holding talks for six to nine months focusing on the key issues of borders and security arrangements.

He said Kerry would endorse the 1967 lines as the starting point of negotiations and assured the Palestinians that Israel would free some 350 prisoners gradually in the coming months. The prisoners would include some 100 men that Israel convicted of crimes committed before interim peace accords were signed in 1993. Israel has balked at freeing these prisoners in the past because many were convicted in deadly attacks.

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Daraghmeh reported from Ramallah, West Bank.



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