US: Israeli-Palestinian peace talks to resume Aug. 14 in Jerusalem

State Department confirms that talks to resume in Israel, followed by a meeting in Jericho; initial release of Palestinian prisoners expected to precede talks; US slams continued settlement activity as illegitimate.

By REUTERS, JPOST.COM STAFF
August 8, 2013 21:49
2 minute read.
Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat and Israeli negotiator Tzipi Livni at a press conference, July 30

Livni and Erekat 370. (photo credit: REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst)

 
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Israeli and Palestinian negotiators will resume peace talks in Jerusalem on Aug. 14, the US State Department said on Thursday.

"Negotiations between the Israelis and Palestinians will be resuming Aug. 14 in Jerusalem and will be followed by a meeting in Jericho (in the West Bank)," State Department spokesperson Jen Psaki told a briefing.

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The sides held their first peace negotiations in nearly three years in Washington on July 30 in US-mediated efforts to end the conflict of more than six decades.

Chief PLO negotiator Saeb Erekat said last week that Israel was expected to release 26 Palestinian prisoners on August 13 to constitute the first of four stages of prisoner releases as a gesture for resuming direct Israeli-Palestinian peace talks.

Israel's chief negotiator Tzipi Livni said last week that the parties had agreed on alternating venues for talks in initial meetings with the first to be held in Israel.

"We and the Palestinians both determined that the first meetings would be held once in Israel and once in the Palestinian Authority ... we want to do it directly (and close to home). The next meeting will be in the second week of August in Israel," she said in a broadcast interview.

Livni added that the prisoners would be freed "by that time" but did not give a more specific timetable, saying that the case of each inmate slated for release still had to be scrutinized before final approval.

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Last month, the Cabinet approved the release of 104 long-serving Palestinian prisoners in stages according to progress in the talks. Thousands more remain in Israeli jails.

Psaki said Thursday that US envoys Martin Indyk and Frank Lowenstein will travel to the region to help facilitate the negotiations.

She signaled that no major breakthroughs were likely at the meeting, saying: "Secretary Kerry does not expect to make any announcements in the aftermath of this round of talks."

In response to reports that Israel had given preliminary approval for the construction of more than 800 new homes in Jewish settlements in the West Bank, Psaki said Washington had taken up the issue with the Israelis.

"The United States does not accept the legitimacy of continued settlement activity and opposes any efforts to legitimize settlement outpost," Psaki said.

"The Secretary has made clear that he believes both the negotiating teams are at the table in good faith and are committed to making progress," she added.

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