WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Israeli and Palestinian negotiators plan to resume peace talks in Washington this week after nearly three years, the U.S. State Department said on Sunday.
Two officials from each side - Israeli’s Tzipi Livni and Yitzhak Molcho and the Palestinians’ Saeb Erekat and Mohammed Ishtyeh - are expected to hold initial meetings on Monday evening and on Tuesday, State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said in a statement.
Secretary of State John Kerry, who has made six trips to the region in the last four months to try to revive talks, extended the invitations in telephone calls to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.
“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.
Psaki suggested the round of talks in Washington this week would be to chart a path forward, rather than to leap directly into the thorny issues that need to be resolved. These include borders, the fate of Palestinian refugees, the future of Israeli settlements on the West Bank and the status of Jerusalem.
“The meetings in Washington will mark the beginning of these talks,” Psaki said, referring to negotiations over the so-called final-status issues that must be settled to reach a peace agreement to end the more than six-decade conflict.
“They will serve as an opportunity to develop a procedural work plan for how the parties can proceed with the negotiations in the coming months,” she said.
Reporting by Arshad Mohammed; editing by Christopher Wilson