Aug 20 (Reuters) - World powers will invite Israelis and Palestinians to begin direct peace talks on Sept. 2 in Washington, a diplomatic source has told Reuters.[ID:nN19110075]
The invitation was expected to be made public within the next two days in this latest attempt to resolve a conflict that has dragged on for decades.
Here are the major issues on the table:
U.S. President Barack Obama is pushing for an agreement that would create a state for the Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip alongside Israel, the so-called two-state solution at the core of U.S. efforts for an Israeli-Palestinian peace.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has said a Palestinian state must be demilitarised so as not to threaten Israel. The Palestinians do not object to this demand, but say it should be discussed in negotiations with Israel.
But the issue has been severely complicated by the fact that Gaza and the West Bank are run by different Palestinian parties, which are virulently opposed to each other. Hamas Islamists, who govern Gaza, denounce the notion of direct talks and do not recognise Israel’s right to exist.
Ahead of a final peace agreement that would determine the status of settlements Israel has built on land it captured in a 1967 war, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has called for a total freeze of their expansion in line with a commitment Israel made under a 2003 U.S.-backed peace "road map".
Among other things, the "road map" also committed the Palestinian Authority "to move against those planning or executing attacks on Israelis". Western powers say Abbas has improved Israel’s security, but Israel says it is not enough.
Netanyahu imposed a 10-month halt to new housing starts in West Bank settlements that expires on Sept. 26. He did not apply the measure to East Jerusalem, captured from Jordan in 1967.
Palestinians say all settlements should be evacuated, and along with the World Court and major powers, consider them illegal. Netanyahu has pledged to keep several major settlement blocs in any peace deal. Previous Israeli governments have said they could compensate by giving Palestinians land elsewhere.
Palestinians want East Jerusalem, which includes the Old City and its sites sacred to Muslims, Jews and Christians, to be the capital of the state they aim to establish in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Netanyahu has said Jerusalem would remain Israel’s "indivisible and eternal" capital. Israel’s claim to the eastern part of Jerusalem is not recognised internationally.
Palestinians have long demanded that refugees who fled or were forced to leave in the war of Israel’s creation in 1948 should be allowed to return, along with millions of their descendants. Yet Palestinian negotiators have signalled they would accept "a just and agreed-upon" solution for refugees as laid out in a U.N. resolution that mentions compensation for those who settle elsewhere.
Israel says any resettlement of Palestinian refugees must occur outside of its borders.