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Israeli and Palestinian negotiators agree to tackle tough issues

July 30, 2013|By Paul Richter
  • Secretary of State John F. Kerry, flanked by Israeli Justice Minister Tzipi Livni, left, and Palestinian chief negotiator Saeb Erekat, discusses the Middle East peace talks at a news conference in Washington.
Secretary of State John F. Kerry, flanked by Israeli Justice Minister Tzipi… (Win McNamee / Getty Images )

WASHINGTON -- Israeli and Palestinian negotiators agreed Tuesday that their peace talks would tackle even the most politically sensitive issues between them, such as the control of Jerusalem and the claims of Palestinian refugees, U.S. officials said as a first round of talks came to an end.

The scope of the talks had previously been ambiguous. President Obama said in a May 2011 speech that the talks should first focus on the relatively easier issues of borders and security.

But Secretary of State John F. Kerry told a news conference in Washington that the two sides “have agreed today that all of the final status issues, all of the core issues and all other issues are on the table for negotiations.... They are on the table with a single goal: a view to ending the conflict, ending the claims.”

Kerry’s statement “has now fleshed it out, and made more specific that they’re going for a full agreement, to bring an end of conflict and an end of claims,” said Robert Danin, a former U.S. diplomat in the Middle East who is now with the Council on Foreign Relations. “This is a maximalist agenda.”

The talks, which began Monday night after four months of shuttle diplomacy in the Middle East by Kerry, will resume in two weeks in either Israel or the West Bank, with the goal of reaching a complete peace deal in nine months, officials said.

The claims of refugees who fled Israel when it was created and the control of Jerusalem, considered a sacred city by both sides, are highly charged issues and will make any peace deal far harder to achieve. Kerry acknowledged that “there is no shortage of passionate skeptics” about the peace effort he has been leading.


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