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Kerry finalizing MidEast peace talks team
Published Tuesday 23/07/2013 (updated) 25/07/2013 13:02
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WASHINGTON (AFP) -- Secretary of State John Kerry is finalizing his team to help shepherd Middle East peace talks and take on the heavy lifting on a day to day basis, a US official said.

State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki would neither confirm nor deny reports that a former US ambassador to Israel, Martin Indyk, has been chosen to head up the American negotiating team.

In Amman on Friday -- at the end of his sixth trip to the region -- Kerry announced that Israeli and Palestinian leaders have agreed in principle to return to talks that have been frozen for three years.

Israeli chief negotiator Tzipi Livni and her Palestinian counterpart Saeb Erakat are due to travel to Washington in the coming days to start the talks.

"This is the first time in years the official negotiators for both sides have publicly agreed to meet at this level," Psaki told reporters.

But she could not give a precise date for the resumption of talks, saying US officials had been "in touch with both parties over the course of the last couple of days, but I don't have an update on the logistics of the date yet."

"Right now we are pursuing the way forward. There has been a great deal of work, compromise and sacrifice leading to this point," Psaki said.

But she stressed she was going to respect Kerry's commitment to keep the details of the negotiations secret in order to give them the best chance of succeeding.

The top US diplomat was now "focused on putting together the right combination of players to work with the parties," she said, adding no decision on a negotiator or envoy had been made.

Psaki said the talks are "going to be a challenging process. (Kerry) can't carry it all on his own shoulders day in and day out. And that's why he's looking to put together a senior team."

The State Department spokeswoman also stressed that the Israelis and Palestinians "have made clear they want to have substantive discussions as early as possible."

It is likely, however, that the agenda and process will be discussed first before the two sides try to get down to the thorny details on which they remain deeply divided.

Former US president Jimmy Carter, who helped negotiate the 1979 peace deal between Israel and Egypt in what became known as the Camp David accords, said he was "more hopeful than I was a month ago, or five years ago," about progress.

"It seems to us that this is a certainly propitious time, because it's been almost a five year absence of any real effort to bring the two parties together," he said, addressing a conference at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

"No-one knows what's going to happen, they might meet the first time and adjourn. But I think there's been a pressure from the Palestinian people and from the Israeli people to have a resolution on this issue."

White House spokesman Jay Carney meanwhile said the US administration felt "very cautious optimism" about the upcoming talks, stressing that the only way "to resolve these issues is if the two parties sit down in direct face-to-face negotiations."

Indyk, currently the head of foreign policy at the Brookings Institution, is a veteran of Middle East diplomacy and was named by several US media outlets as Kerry's choice to head the American team.

Indyk was assistant secretary of state for Near Eastern affairs under then president Bill Clinton and served as ambassador to Israel from 1995 to 1997.

He then again served as ambassador to Israel from 2000 to 2001. Indyk was born in London, but emigrated to Australia as a child. He became a US citizen in 1993.

"Obviously he's a very well-respected professional with a great deal of experience and background," Psaki said when asked about Indyk's qualifications.

"But I don't have any other updates on the personnel process," she added.
23/07/2013 10:55

2 ) Mark of Lewiston - To #1 / USA
23/07/2013 12:33
US doesn't talk to Hamas. Not allowed.

3 ) Rasha / Palestine
23/07/2013 12:49
I hope that the Americans will stop cuddling their baby Israel, orelse we will return back to square 1

4 ) southparkbear / usa
23/07/2013 13:00
so what exactly is the palestinians victory here? that saeb was invited? we know there is no freeze of settlement (we agree that is too a palestinians victory)

5 ) matt / usa
23/07/2013 16:33
I gotta ask this. what preconditions have israel made to sitting down and talking?

6 ) betz55 / USA
23/07/2013 16:43
Martin Indyk is AIPAC through and through and would be disastrous as a negotiator. Why? In his past history as a 'negotiator' what has he done? Nothing but try and ram down the Palestinians throats Israels agenda and 'peace' deals. Be wary Palestine Team, be very wary. Martin Indyk is another Dennis Ross, and we all know what a 30 year negotiator with no tangible results except to further Israels agenda cheese whiz he was. Just say no to Martin Indyk.

7 ) JoeUSA / USA
23/07/2013 16:45
The appointment of Indyk to lead the negotiations , is yet another proof that the US is not impartial , even handed , and fair in its approach to the Palestinians. Indyk is part of AIPAC and historically had voiced very pro Zionist attitudes and clearly looked after the interest of Israel not that of the USA or the Palestinians. He is totally unacceptable and biased.

8 ) NHG / USA
23/07/2013 19:45
The definition of insanity is repeating the same thing over and over and expecting different results. The US should stay out of discussions as they are clearly biased negotiators and let the EU handle this.

9 ) Yehuda Solomon / Israel
23/07/2013 19:49
@ 1), RE-read @ 2). To elaborate ... because Hamas is on the American's terrorist list and, since this "peace" talk crap is being organized by the Americans, Hamas would not be invited. Hamas (and their allies) are dead-set against these "peace" talks anyway because they realize they're insane (Hamas is 100% right). So there's no point for even the Palestinian Authority to pay attention to Hamas. @ 3), Forget about square #1; we're still on square #0 (and forever will be). @ 4), To (cont.)

10 ) Yehuda Solomon / Israel
23/07/2013 20:01
answer your 1st question: There is no Palestinian victory; not a damn thing. @ 5), Our preconditions (according to our deceptive PM) are that there BE no preconditions. The Palestinians' preconditions are that we must agree to the 1967 armistice lines ("borders") as a starting basis for any actual settlement on what land we end up giving the State of Palestine and what land we retain, either by further land exchanges or not relative to those 1967 lines ... and our release of some (cont.)

11 ) Yehuda Solomon / Israel
23/07/2013 20:14
Palestinian prisoners. These are everyone's "preconditions" ... at least so far ... so stay tuned ... this movie's ending, however, is not conditional on anything ... because it's dead. @ 6), You're basically right ... WELL-said. @ 7), You're also basically right ... again, WELL-said. @ 8), You're also on the right track except for the last part ... It doesn't mean a damn thing if the EU or anyone else handles this ... So, for all you Americans ... Your White House fax no. is (cont.)

12 ) Yehuda Solomon / Israel
23/07/2013 20:21
202-456-2461 (and its phone no. is 202-456-1111). Get OFF your butts and TELL IT what you believe--because you're RIGHT--since your President and Secretary of State don't know what in the hell they're doing.

13 ) ali abbas / malaysia
23/07/2013 21:35
is america on isreal or palestin side?

14 ) Colin Wright / USA
23/07/2013 23:20
As far as I can tell, the 'talks' are going to be between the American neo-cons (ala Martin Indyk) and their Israeli counterparts. While I'm sure they'll be congenial, I can't see how the conclusions could have significance.

15 ) Colin Wright / USA
23/07/2013 23:22
To JoeUSA #7: 'The appointment of Indyk to lead the negotiations , is yet another proof that the US is not impartial...' You needed proof? It goes without saying. The Israelis would be outraged if we attempted to impartial.

16 ) Colin Wright / USA
23/07/2013 23:26
To Matt #5 : 'what preconditions have israel made to sitting down and talking?' (1) Preconditions of the Israelis? That they not be held to any of their previous commitments, that they be allowed to continue to take the land that is under discussion, that there be no question of Israel's legitimacy, that the negotiations be conducted under the aegis of the one state in the world that supports them most strongly...

17 ) @ What-1, Mark-2, & Yehuda-9 / USA too
23/07/2013 23:26
The PLO does not want to be part of the talks anymore than Hamas, but it needs the US aid to keep the PA running, and Hamas is not part of the talks for two reasons: -a- from the Hamas view, it has nothing to lose by not going to talks, and -b- from the US view, Hamas will act only to disrupt talks.

18 ) Colin Wright / USA
23/07/2013 23:28
To Matt #5 : 'what preconditions have israel made to sitting down and talking?' (2) If you think there are no pre-conditions, lets consider holding the talks in Ankara, suggest that the question of Israel existing at all be put on the agenda, and ask Rashid Khalid instead of Indyk to preside. Don't be an ass -- of course Israel has imposed pre-conditions.

19 ) Colin Wright / USA
23/07/2013 23:38
to ali abbas #13; 'is america on isreal or palestin side?' You seem to be the only guy at the puppet show who doesn't know there's a script. We've been here before -- the whole game is to make the Israeli position appear legitimate.

20 ) Outlier / USA
25/07/2013 07:09
Give peace negotiations a chance. The worst that can happen is they fail, which means the Palestinians are no worse off than they are now.

21 ) Mark of Lewiston - To #9 & 17 / USA
25/07/2013 07:36
Gaza is an internal Palestinian issue to resolve or deal with. It is already complicated by the Separate negotiations Israel is having with Hamas through Egypt and the success of the Bush policy to get Hamas in place to run Gaza. If the PA and Egypt can wean Hamas away from Iran, that will be a first step. Then a unity deal with the PA (Israel will oppose) could bring Gaza back into PA control, foiling the Bush Admin plan for Gaza.
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