Nine-month goal for Middle East peace deal

Negotiators will aim to reach a "final status" agreement over the next nine months to end their long conflict, US says.

    Israeli and Palestinian negotiators have agreed to meet again within the next two weeks, aiming to seal a final deal in nine months, US Secretary of State John Kerry said.

    The two sides will meet in either Israel or the Palestinian territories and "our objective will be" to reach a "final status agreement over the course of the next nine months," Kerry told reporters on Tuesday after Israelis and Palestinians ended a three-year freeze on talks.

    Kerry, speaking with the Israeli and Palestinian negotiators at his side, said this week's round of talks between the two sides were positive and constructive and he was convinced that they could make peace.

    After a morning of talks at the White House with President Barack Obama and at the State Department, the two sides had agreed that all the most contentious issues such as borders and refugees and the fate of Jerusalem would be on the table for discussion.

    "[The two sides] have agreed that all the final status issues, core issues, are all on the table for negotiation," said Kerry.

    "And they are on the table with one simple goal: a view to ending the conflict, ending the claims. Our objective will be to achieve a final status agreement over the course of the next nine months."

    He went on to say that all details of the talks and discussions will be kept confidential. "No one should consider any reports or rumours unless they come directly from me."

    Final status isses on the table

    Al Jazeera's Rosalind Jordan, reporting from Washington, said: "Not only did it seem it was positive, but I was told when everyone came in for their meeting this morning, the lead negotiators embraced.

    "There was a real sense of comraderie. They also feel empowered by their own political leaderships."

    US Secretary of State John Kerry speaks on negotiations

    Following Kerry's speech, Saeb Erekat, the chief Palestinian negotiator, took to the podium, and said: "Palestinians have suffered enough, and no one benefits more from this endeavour than the Palestinian people".

    "I am happy that all final status issues are on the table."

    Following his brief speech, Tzipi Livni, the Israeli negotiator, took the opportunity to point out that, "in these negotiations, it is not our intention to argue about the past, but to make decisions for the future."

    "It is our task to work together, so we can transform a spark of hope into something that is real and lasting."

    Israel and the Palestinians remain deeply divided over "final status issues", including the fate of Jerusalem, claimed by both as a capital, the right of return for Palestinian refugees, and the borders of a future Palestinian state complicated by dozens of illegal Jewish settlements scattered across the occupied West Bank.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and agencies


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