US says Israel, Palestinians to resume peace talks

Breakthrough marks a crucial step towards easing Middle East tension

US says Israel, Palestinians to resume peace talks

She made the announcement at the State Department on Friday with special Mideast peace envoy George Mitchell at her side.

The breakthrough marks a small but important step towards easing tensions in the Middle East.

Hillary said the talks are to begin September 2, hosted by President Barack Obama. She said the hope is that a comprehensive peace agreement can be reached within one year. The leaders of Egypt and Jordan also have been invited to attend the first session.

Outlines of deal
Middle East analysts say the peace process which began in the early 1990s long ago established the basic outlines of a deal acceptable to Israel and the Palestinians, and identified crunch issues remaining to be thrashed out.

In one year from now, the Palestinian Authority government intends to have established all the attributes of statehood, raising speculation that it might declare independence should talks fail to make progress on a “final status” treaty.
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas broke off talks with the previous Israeli prime minister, Ehud Olmert, in late 2008 and contacts were frozen following Israel’s devastating offensive in the Gaza Strip in December of that year against the militant Islamist Palestinian movement, Hamas.

Contacts resumed in May this year after a hiatus of 19 months in the form of “proximity talks” via Obama’s envoy George Mitchell, who has been working for weeks to get Abbas to agree to upgrade the process by resuming direct talks. Obama wants face-to-face talks started well before September 26, when Israel’s 10-month moratorium on Jewish settlement building in the occupied West Bank is due to end. Full-scale return to settlement construction could sink the talks for good.

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