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Israeli negotiator predicts 'very tough' peace talks

July 29, 2013 7:45 P.M. (Updated: July 31, 2013 11:53 A.M.)
UNITED NATIONS (AFP) -- Israeli negotiator Tzipi Livni said Monday that peace talks with the Palestinians would be "very tough" but insisted they were necessary because of the growing troubles in the Middle East.

"It is going to be very tough and problematic," the Israeli justice minister told reporters after meeting UN leader Ban Ki-moon and before going to Washington for the start of preliminary talks.

Livni said Israel was "hopeful" about the US-brokered talks and said Palestinian prisoners would be released during the negotiations as agreed with the United States and the Palestinian leadership.

The peace effort is "a mutual interest for Israel, for the Palestinians, the Arab world, the international community," Livni said. "It is quite a responsibility. It is going to be complicated I am sure, but I believe that when we see our troubled region, what we can do is to change the future of generations to come by having peace between Israel and the Palestinians."

Livni said she was happy that US Secretary of State John Kerry had appointed a former ambassador to Israel, Martin Indyk as special envoy for the peace talks.

"I congratulate him," she said. "Well I don't know whether to congratulate him because it is going to be very tough and problematic but he is talented enough to face all these challenges and he is familiar with the conflict.

"I know that he is also quite enthusiastic to solve the conflict so we are going with him and are glad to work with him."

Livni said 104 Palestinian prisoners would be freed "during the talks as was agreed."

"We are going to implement our responsibilities according to the understandings with the United States and the Palestinians," she said.

The Israeli cabinet voted on Sunday to release the long term prisoners.

The UN leader "expressed his strong support for the resumption of credible negotiations to achieve the two-state solution and his appreciation for the recent courageous decision of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in this regard," said a UN spokesman.

"He stressed the importance of creating an environment conducive to the resumption of talks, and encouraged both sides to take further positive steps in this regard," the spokesman added.

Talks between Israel and the PLO have been frozen since September 2010. The Palestinians refused contacts after Israel refused to extend a moratorium on colonization in the occupied West Bank.

Kerry brokered the new talks during several months of pressing both sides.
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