EU and partners press Israeli, Palestinian leaders not to undermine peace talks

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The EU and other Middle East negotiators have urged the Israelis and Palestinians to avoid actions that undermine new negotiations, after the two sides this week held their first talks since 2010.

A final agreement between the Israelis and Palestinians could be reached within a few months, US Secretary of State John Kerry said on Tuesday (30 July) at the end of a meeting in Washington.

Kerry spoke on the sidelines of the latest round of talks that got underway between Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni and Palestinian Authority negotiator Saeb Erekat.

The Middle East negotiating quartet (the EU, United States, Russia and United Nations) said in a statement that it was ''determined to lends its effective support'' to the ''shared commitment'' of the Israelis and Palestinians ''to achieve a negotiated two-state solution within the next nine months."

However, the quartet called on both parties "to take every possible step to promote conditions conducive to the success of the negotiating process and to refrain from actions that undermine trust."

The Israeli and Palestinian delegations, Kerry said, will meet again within the next two weeks, either in Israel or in the Palestinian territories. The quartet went on to call on all parties involved to do everything in their power to make the talks a success.

After a three-year stalemate and inflexible positions taken by both sides, the deadlock was broken by the Israeli government's decision on Monday (29 July) to release 104 Palestinian detainees held in prisons for more than 20 years for violent crimes.

In 2010, US President Barack Obama persuaded the two sides to resume face-to-face talks. In response, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu imposed a 10-month limited moratorium on Jewish settlement construction. The Palestinians said the moratorium was insufficient, and talks broke down.

In the subsequent years of stalemate, the Israelis continued to expand their settlements, while the Palestinians defied the Netanyahu government and Obama administration by securing de facto statehood recognition at the UN General Assembly in 2012.

Abbas challenges quartet

On Monday, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas laid out his vision for an Israeli-Palestinian accord.

Abbas said that no Israeli settlers or border forces could remain in a future Palestinian state and that Palestinians deem illegal all Jewish settlements built within the land occupied in the 1967 Middle East war.

The statement appeared to challenge Kerry's hopes that the terms of the talks be kept secret.

"In a final resolution, we would not see the presence of a single Israeli – civilian or soldier – on our lands," Abbas said in a briefing to mostly Egyptian journalists.

"An international, multinational presence like in Sinai, Lebanon and Syria – we are with that," he said, referring to United Nations peacekeeping operations in those places.

Before agreeing to return to talks last week, Palestinian officials were adamant that negotiations should have three main prerequisites: the release of veteran Arab prisoners in Israeli prisons, a full settlement freeze and an acknowledgment of the 1967 lines as the basis for future borders.

Israeli-Palestinian talks resumed in July 2013 after three years of deadlock.

Talks resumed 20 years after peace discussions between the two sides started in Oslo, when a series of secret meetings led to a declaration of principles, announced in Washington on 13 September 1993. The agreement led to the formation of the Palestinian Authority, which was granted limited autonomy in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, and set out guidelines for future peace talks.

The last round started in 2010, but broke down over Israeli's perennially controversial settlement policyIn the subsequent years of stalemate, the Israelis continued to expand their settlements, while the Palestinians defied Israelis and Americans by securing de-facto statehood recognition at the UN General Assembly.

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