Israelis, Palestinians Set to Resume Peace Talks

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JERUSALEM, Israel - Direct peace talks between Israel and the Palestinian Authority will resume next month, marking the first attempt at such negotiations in nearly two years.

The Obama administration announced Friday that the Mideast talks would resume Sept. 2. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said a two-state solution would be the ultimate goal.

"Since the beginning of this administration, we have worked with the Israelis and Palestinians and our international partners to advance the cause of comprehensive peace in the Middle East," Clinton said.

"As we move forward, it is important that actions by all sides help to advance our effort, not hinder it," she continued. "There have been difficulties in the past. There will be difficulties ahead. Without a doubt, we will hit more obstacles."

The Middle East Quartet -- made up of the U.S., European Union, United Nations, and Russia -- has acted to mediate between Israel and the Palestinian Authority.

A statement issued in June by the Quartet projected a two-year period to complete the negotiations, but Friday's statement calls for talks to conclude within a year.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in a statement that "reaching an agreement is a difficult challenge, but is possible."

"We are coming to the talks with a genuine desire to reach a peace agreement between the two peoples that will protect Israel's national security interests," he added.

When Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas meet on Sept. 2, they will decide the parameters for the talks and where and when the later rounds of talks will be, U.S. envoy to the Mideast, George Mitchell said.

It's been 20 months since Israel and Palestine had face-to-face talks. Direct talks broke down in Dec. 2008. Here's a brief timeline of events since:

  • September 2009. President Obama brought President Abbas and Prime Minister Netanyahu together for a handshake at the U.N., but no agreements were reached in substance.
  • March 2010. "Proximity" talks resumed, followed by indirect talks via U.S. Special Envoy to the Middle East George Mitchell.
  • March 2010. Vice President Joe Biden visited Israel. While there, Israel approved 1,600 new homes in Jerusalem neighborhoods, setting off a diplomatic debacle between the U.S. and Israel.
  • March 2010. Nentanyahu visited the White House. But meetings with President Obama were tense and no photos were released of the leaders together.
  • June 2010. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas appeared with President Obama at the White House.
  • July 6, 2010. Obama hosted Netanyahu again at the White House. This time, the two insisted there was no longer a rift in their relationship.
  • July 16, 2010. Obama sent the Palestinian leader a letter warning if they didn't resume direct talks with Israel, it would undermine U.S.-Palistenian ties.

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