US Secretary of State John Kerry speaks during a press conference at Queen Alia International Airport on July 19, 2013
US Secretary of State John Kerry announced that an agreement has been reached between the Israelis and Palestinians for the basis to resume Middle East peace talks. © Mandel Ngan - AFP
US Secretary of State John Kerry speaks during a press conference at Queen Alia International Airport on July 19, 2013
Last updated: July 20, 2013

Agreement on basis to resume Middle East peace talks, says Kerry

Israeli politicians on Saturday hailed an announcement by US Secretary of State John Kerry of a breakthrough in talks with Palestinians but warned it was an opportunity that could not be missed.

Kerry had on Friday night said that Israeli and Palestinian negotiators have laid the groundwork to resume peace talks, frozen for almost three years, and will meet in Washington in the near future.

Quick to respond was Israeli negotiator and Justice Minister Tzipi Livni, who will be representing the Jewish state at the Washington talks.

"These were long months of scepticism and cynicism," she said in a statement late Friday night. "But now, four years of diplomatic stagnation are about to end."

Livni acknowledged the fact that talks would likely be "complex and not easy," but said she was convinced this is "the right thing for our future, our security, our economy and values."

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's office has refused to comment on Kerry's statement and no members of his Likud party have so far publicly voiced their opinion on it.

Environment Minister Amir Peretz of Livni's HaTnuah party however called it "a great opportunity that cannot be missed".

"I call on the Labour party and entire peace camp to support the move and strengthen it," said Peretz, who himself was a member of the Labour party until 2012, on his Facebook page.

Opposition and Labour party leader Shelly Yachimovich called the "renewal" of talks "an important opportunity to finally make progress toward an agreement between us and the Palestinians. We shouldn't suffice with renewing the negotiations, but do everything to work toward a real agreement."

Arab-Israeli Knesset member Esawi Frij of the leftwing Meretz party also praised the development, but said he "had no illusions".

"I hope Bibi isn't planning on fudging us and the world again," he wrote on his Facebook page, using Netanyahu's nickname, "and entering negotiations just for the sake of negotiations, to finally blow up the whole thing with childish blaming games."

Kerry's announcement came at the end of four days of intense diplomacy by the secretary of state as he consulted Israeli and Palestinian leaders from his base in the Jordanian capital Amman.

Talks have stuttered and started for decades in the elusive bid to reach a final peace deal between the Arab world and Israel.

But they collapsed completely in September 2010 when Israel refused to keep up a freeze on settlement building in Palestinian territories.

Israeli media were largely silent on the breakthrough as Saturday is the Jewish day of rest, but Barak Ravid of the left-leaning Haaretz newspaper called Kerry's announcement "a personal triumph" for Livni who lived up to her electoral promises.

Ravid said Netanyahu's intentions on renewing talks remained unclear.

"But if he is in it for the real thing, he will have to for the first time present clear stances and explain where for him Israel ends and Palestine begins," he wrote.

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