WASHINGTON, July 29 (Itar-Tass) - Former American Ambassador to Israel Martin Indyk has been appointed the U.S. special representative for the Middle East settlement.
The announcement was made by Secretary of State John Kerry. He is scheduled to meet with the heads of the Israeli and Palestinian delegations that are arriving in Washington on Monday, July 29, for peace talks that will resume after an almost three-year break.
The negotiators are already on their way to Washington, Kerry said.
He expressed hope that Indyk, 62, who is considered an experienced diplomat, will be able to provide important assistance to the Palestinians and Israelis in settling all of their disputed issues.
Initial meetings are planned for the evening of Monday, July 29, and Tuesday, July 30.
The Israelis will be represented by Justice Minister Tzipi Livni and Yitzhak Molcho, and the Palestinians will be represented by Chief Negotiator Saeb Erekat and Mohammad Shtayyeh. As Secretary Kerry announced on July 19 in Amman, Jordan, the Israelis and Palestinians had reached agreement on the basis for resuming direct final status negotiations. The meetings in Washington will mark the beginning of these talks. They will serve as an opportunity to develop a procedural work plan for how the parties can proceed with the negotiations in the coming months.
In his invitation, the Secretary again commended the courage shown by Prime Minister Netanyahu and President Abbas. The Secretary said, “Both leaders have demonstrated a willingness to make difficult decisions that have been instrumental in getting to this point. We are grateful for their leadership.”
The United States and the parties are looking forward to beginning these substantive discussions and in moving forward toward a final status agreement.
Kerry reaffirmed the Barack Obama administration’s commitment to peace in the Middle East and is aware of how challenging this task is.
He believes that the protracted conflict can be stopped only of the parties agree to make “reasonable compromises” on the most thorny issues. Their list has practically not changed over the last several years and includes Palestine’s demand for the return of the occupied territories in the West Bank, the creation of the Palestinian state within the borders that existed in 1967, the status of Jerusalem, and the return of Palestinian refugees.
On July 19, after three days of exhausting consultations with the Palestinians, Kerry announced that a platform for new talks had been agreed and that the sides would send their delegations to Washington next week.
He said this would be the beginning of direct contacts between Palestinian and Israel.
“We have reached an agreement that establishes a basis for resuming direct final status negotiations between the Palestinians and the Israelis. This is a significant and welcome step forward,” Kerry said.
He noted that “candid, private conversations are the very best way to preserve the time and the space for progress and understanding when you face difficult, complicated issues such as Middle East peace.”
At the same time, he admitted that “no one believes that the longstanding differences between the parties can be resolved overnight or just wiped away.”
Kerry pointed out that “the challenges require some very tough choices in the days ahead” and “the road ahead will be difficult and the challenges that the parties face are daunting” but said he was “hopeful because of the courageous leadership shown by President Abbas and Prime Minister Netanyahu. Both of them have chosen to make difficult choices here, and both of them were instrumental in pushing in this direction.”
They agreed that “the difficult road ahead is worth travelling and that the daunting challenges that we face are worth tackling. So they have courageously recognised that in order for Israelis and Palestinians to live together side by side in peace and security, they must begin by sitting at the table together in direct talks.”
He welcomed “the positive steps that Israelis themselves and Palestinians are taking on the ground and the promise that those steps represent about the possibilities of the future.”
“The path to resolution of this longstanding conflict in this critical corner of the world, that path is not about fate. It’s about choices, choices that people can make. And this is not up to chance. It’s up to the Israeli people and the Palestinian people and no one else,” the secretary of state said.
Direct talks between Israel and Palestine stopped in September 2010 after the former had refused to suspend the construction of new settlements in the West Bank.
On July 23, Russian Permanent Representative to the United Nations Vitaly Churkin called for supporting the attempt to resume the discussion by holding a ministerial meeting of the Middle East Quartet of international mediators at the earliest opportunity. The meeting may take place in early August during Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov’s upcoming visit to the United States.