All issues will be on the table in Middle East peace talks between Israelis and Palestinians as the sides try to reach a final status agreement within nine months, US Secretary of State John Kerry said Tuesday, dpa reported.
Negotiators for the Israelis and Palestinians will meet again for formal negotiations in the region within two weeks, he said.
The sides had "agreed to remain engaged in sustained, continuous and substantive negotiation on the core issues," Kerry said after talks over two days in Washington that launched the first direct negotiations in nearly three years.
"The parties have agreed here today that all of the final status issues, all of the core issues and all other issues are all on the table for negotiation," Kerry said, flanked by Israeli Justice Minister Tzipi Livni and chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat.
"Our objective will be to achieve a final status agreement over the course of the next nine months," Kerry added.
Both Livni and Erekat expressed optimism, while acknowledging a tough road lay ahead.
"Palestinians have suffered enough, and no one benefits more from the success of this endeavor more than Palestinians. I'm delighted that all final status issues are on the table and will be resolved without any exceptions," Erekat said.
"And it's time for the Palestinian people to have an independent sovereign state of their own. It's time for the Palestinians to live in peace, freedom and dignity within their own independent, sovereign state."
Livni noted that the Israeli government's approval Sunday of the release of 104 Palestinian prisoners had paved the way for the talks.
"It's going to be hard, with ups and downs," she said. "But I can assure you that ... in these negotiations, it's not our intention to argue about the past but to create solutions and make decisions for the future."
The sides met earlier Tuesday with US President Barack Obama at the White House. A White House official said the president had wanted to hear personally from the sides and express US support for the peace process.
The United Nations, European Union, United States and Russia - the so-called quartet - welcomed the resumed peace talks. Quartet representatives commended Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for their "courageous decision in the interest of their peoples" to return to the negotiating table.
The content of negotiations moving forward would be confidential, with Kerry serving as the only person authorized to comment.
The US will work as a facilitator throughout the entire process, Kerry said. Former US ambassador to Israel Martin Indyk is the US special envoy.
US officials attempted to temper skeptism about the odds for success and described both sides as "genuinely interested in working together to try to find a way to resolve the issues," yet also acknowledged how difficult the process would be.
Obama "is under no illusions that the process will be easy. He knows that there's an awful lot of hard work ahead," the White House official said.
Livni said earlier she would push for an agreement despite opposition from hardliners in her own government.
The dynamics of Israel's government also make a unified stance on peace talks difficult. Netanyahu began a second consecutive term in office in March, heading a coalition with four parties: his nationalist Likud-Beteinu alliance; the centrist, pro-reform Yesh Atid; the pro-settler religious-nationalist Jewish Home; and Livni's The Movement.
The Labour Party has said it would support any peace moves from the opposition. However, the right-wing religious bloc in the Knesset has a majority of one seat over the peace camp.
Shelly Yechimovich, of the left-to-centre Labour Party, welcomed the renewal of negotiations and said that a two-state solution is a "strategic, economic and security interest of Israel."
The Palestinians meanwhile face opposition from the Hamas movement, which said it opposes the resumption of negotiations because it undermines the Palestinian cause.
Sami Abu Zuhri, the movement's spokesman in Gaza, told dpa that Abbas' move to resume the talks was an "unaccepted unilateral decision."
Media reports have said details of the agreement that formed the basis for the talks' relaunch include an Israeli promise to release Palestinian prisoners and not to publish new tenders for construction in West Bank settlements, and a Palestinian promise to hold off diplomatic moves in international bodies.
Under centrist premier Ehud Olmert, the sides held far-reaching negotiations, but they were cut short when he was forced to resign over corruption allegations and call early elections that saw Netanyahu return to power.
After Netanyahu took office in 2009, the sides made one, short-lived attempt at direct negotiations in 2010. But these quickly collapsed.
A stubborn stalemate remained in place since then, with the Palestinians conditioning talks on a full freeze of Israeli construction in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem and Israel insisting on talks without preconditions.
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