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Israel, Palestinians eye peace deal in 9 months

Secretary of State John Kerry stands with Israel's Justice Minister and chief negotiator Tzipi Livni, left, and Palestinian chief negotiator Saeb Erekat, after the resumption of Israeli-Palestinian peace talks, Tuesday, July 30, 2013, at the State Department in Washington.

July 30, 2013 12:00:00 AM PDT
Israeli and Palestinian negotiators have agreed to meet within two weeks to start negotiations on a Middle East peace agreement with the goal of reaching a deal within nine months.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry held a news conference Tuesday morning with representatives from both sides.

Kerry says the time has come for a lasting agreement and that all major issues will be on the table. He said the next round of negotiations would take place in either Israel or the Palestinian territories at an as yet-unspecified date before mid-August.

U.S. officials had previously said the negotiations would continue for a minimum of nine months but did not set that as a timeframe for reaching a deal. Kerry said he was aware of the skepticism surrounding the new push for peace and acknowledged that it would not be easy. But he said he was hopeful an agreement could be reached.

"While I understand the skepticism, I don't share it. And I don't think we have time for it," he said.

Kerry said the negotiations would be kept secret but was unclear on whether he would be commenting on the talks. The negotiations are set to be mediated on a day-to-day basis by Kerry's new Mideast peace envoy, Martin Indyk.

Despite the secrecy, the broad outlines of an agreement are well known: the Palestinians want a state based on the lines, with agreed land swaps, that existed before the 1967 war in which Israel seized east Jerusalem and occupied the West Bank and Gaza. Israel wants security assurances and a recognition that it is and will remain a Jewish state.

Earlier Tuesday, President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden met with the lead negotiators - Israeli Justice Minister Tzipi Livni and senior Palestinian official Saeb Erekat - for about 30 minutes. White House spokesman Jay Carney said Mr. Obama called the meeting to "directly express his personal support for final status negotiations." Mr. Obama pledged full U.S. support to the process, Carney said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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