Indirect Israeli-Palestinian peace talks have begun under U.S. mediation, the Palestinian chief negotiator said on Sunday.
Here are factors that could affect the progress of negotiations:
*U.S. special envoy George Mitchell, who has led President Barack Obama's drive to revive peace talks stalled now for 18 months, will mediate the indirect talks, which are a far cry from direct negotiations held as far back as the early 1990s, but will at least get the peace process moving again.
*Palestinians have demanded the talks address core conflict issues including Jerusalem and Jewish settlements built in occupied land Palestinians seek for a state.
*Israel has not ruled out any issues for discussion but has insisted they may only be resolved through direct talks, a position underscored on Sunday by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who said peace would be impossible without face-to-face negotiations.
*Keeping the indirect talks going -- the Arab League, in giving its approval to the Palestinians to negotiate, set a four-month timeframe -- could depend on Israeli settlement activity. The Palestinians say they have U.S. assurances that Israel will not take "provocative action," an apparent reference to any announcement of new settlement projects.
*The peace process could be affected by tension elsewhere in the region. Israel hopes that hard-hitting international sanctions led by the United States will soon be imposed on Iran to compel it to open its nuclear project to inspection and prove it is not trying to develop atomic weapons. Any serious setback to the progress of a diplomatic solution would ramp up talk of military intervention, which could sideline peace efforts.
*The militant Islamist movements Hezbollah and Hamas, in Lebanon and Gaza, are Iranian-backed and could be enlisted as proxies by Tehran in the event of a conflict. For the moment, both fronts are quiet, but there are tensions beneath the surface. Israeli President Shimon Peres has accused Syria of supplying Hezbollah with Scud missiles -- an allegation denied by Damascus. Lebanon said on Saturday it would not press Hezbollah to give up its arms, citing tensions with Israel. The group's leader, Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah, has said he does not believe war is at hand.
(Writing by Allyn Fisher-Ilan, Tom Perry and Jeffrey Heller, Editing by Myra MacDonald)