WASHINGTON — Israeli and Palestinians negotiators sat down together in Washington today, as the Obama administration’s third bid to re-launch stalled Mideast peace talks entered its second day.
A senior U.S. official said the two sides met at the State Department without American mediators following a Monday dinner hosted by Secretary of State John Kerry that they all attended.
Kerry is to join the negotiators later today to close out the initial round of negotiations and release a statement detailing any progress. U.S. officials sought to dampen expectations, saying Kerry might say only that the two sides had agreed to meet again.
A second round is likely to be held in the region in the coming two weeks and would be overseen by Martin Indyk, the new U.S. special envoy for Israeli-Palestinian peace talks, the officials said. The parties have agreed to negotiate for a minimum of nine months.
In announcing Indyk’s appointment before the talks, Kerry urged both sides to make “reasonable compromises” on the most serious issues that divide them.
Kerry spent six months of furious shuttle diplomacy in an effort to restart the negotiations that broke down in 2008. An attempt to restart them in 2010 failed after a single day. And before that, scores of diplomats have failed to broker peace decades.
After five years of stalemate, there has been a flurry of activity in recent days to set the stage for the talks that all sides agree will be protracted and difficult.
Diplomats long have stressed the urgency of resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict but Kerry thinks there are more reasons than ever to move quickly. In his thinking, time is running out.
Even if Israel wanted to, it would be difficult to remove mushrooming Israeli West Bank settlements whose population has doubled since 2000. Demographers have warned that it will be only a matter of a few years until Arabs outnumber Jews in the Holy Land. And last year, the U.N. General Assembly recognized a state of Palestine in the West Bank, Gaza and east Jerusalem — a move that could let the Palestinians take their complaints over settlements to the International Criminal Court.