Israel and Palestinians agree face-to-face talks

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Israel and Palestinians agree face-to-face talks

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Israel and the Palestinians have agreed to resume direct negotiations without preconditions aimed at reaching a peace deal within a year.

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has invited Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to Washington early next month.

The goal is to establish a viable, democratic and independent Palestinian state existing side by side with Israel.

American Middle East peace envoy George Mitchell
said: “Prime Minister Netanyahu said in a public appearance in this country on his most recent visit to Washington that he believed it could be done within a year. President Abbas expressed similar sentiments to me. And I hold strongly to that belief having now been involved for some time in the region.”

Netanyahu has long sought a resumption of the talks that stalled before the Gaza war in 2008 saying he was ready to sit down at any time with President Abbas.

Palestinian negotiators welcomed an invitation issued by the Middle-East Quartet – comprised of the US, the UN, the EU and Russia – saying it “contained the elements needed to provide for a peace agreement”.

Core issues involve the construction of Jewish settlements on occupied territory, the status of Jerusalem, the right of return and the borders of a Palestinian state.

The militant Islamist Hamas which runs the Gaza Strip has dismissed the invitation to talk as “phoney”.