Middle East Peace Talks|to Resume, Clinton Says

     WASHINGTON (CN) – Israeli and Palestinian leaders will resume direct peace talks in Washington on Sept. 2, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Friday. “There have been difficulties in the past, there will be difficulties ahead,” Clinton acknowledged in a State Department briefing, but said the leaders have agreed to work toward “comprehensive peace in the Middle East.”

     Clinton invited Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas to Washington in early September “to relaunch direct negotiations to resolve all status issues.”
     The leaders hope to reach a settlement within a year.
     President Obama also invited the leaders of Egypt and Jordan to attend the talks.
     Obama will hold bilateral meetings with all four leaders before the leaders meet at a dinner on Sept. 1. Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair is also invited to the dinner.
     On Sept. 2, Netanyahu, Abbas and Clinton will hold a trilateral meeting at the State Department.
     U.S. special envoy to the Middle East George Mitchell said what led to the agreement to restart peace talks was a “recognition by the parties themselves, by their leaders … that the best outcome is an agreement which results in two states living side by side in peace and security and the only way that can be achieve is through direct negotiations between the parties.”
     He said the leaders recognized that “this is the right time.” “
     Mitchell said the United States would be an “active and sustained” participant in the talks. He also said the talks were supported by the Quartet, the group of Middle East peacemakers made up of the United States, the United Nations, the European Union and Russia.
     At the September talks, the leaders are expected to consider a two-state solution that would “ensure security and dignity for Israelis and Palestinians,” Mitchell said.
     After talks broke down in December 2008, the Obama administration met with leaders from both sides separately. Last month, Netanyahu said during a visit to the White House that it was “high time” for peace talks.
     “We need to begin negotiations in order to end them,” Netanyahu said during the visit.
     Mitchell said U.S. leaders were aware of mistrust and remnants of hostilities between the parties after decades of conflict.
     Clinton also acknowledged the obstacles that may arise during talks, but asked the leaders to push through in order to reach a “just and lasting peace” in the region.

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