Secretary of State John Kerry says Israeli and Palestinian negotiators have agreed to meet again within two weeks to continue substantive negotiations on a so-far elusive peace deal. He said the sides had set a goal for a nine-month deadline for reaching a pact.
The two sides will meet in either Israel or the Palestinian territories and "our objective will be" to reach a "final status agreement over the course of the next nine months," Kerry told reporters after Israelis and Palestinians ended a three-year freeze on talks.
After a morning of discussions at the White House with President Obama and at the State Department, the two sides had agreed that all the most contentious issues such as borders and refugees and the fate of Jerusalem would be on the table for discussion.
"The parties have agreed to remain engaged in sustained, continuous and substantive negotiations on the core issues," Kerry said, flanked by Israeli chief negotiator Tzipi Livni and her Palestinian counterpart Saeb Erakat. "They will meet within the next two weeks in either Israel or the Palestinian Territories in order to begin the process of formal negotiation.
"All of the core issues... are on the table with one simple goal: a view to ending the conflict, ending the claims," Kerry said. "Our objective will be to achieve a final status agreement over the course of the next nine months."
The top U.S. diplomat also reiterated his view that time is running out for a two-state solution, insisting "there is no other alternative.”
"We all need to be strong in our belief in the possibility of peace, courageous enough to follow through in our faith in it, and audacious enough to achieve what these two peoples have so long aspired to and deserve," he said.
Erakat praised Kerry's dogged efforts to resume the talks, stalled for three years, saying "no one benefits more from the success of this endeavor than Palestinians.
"I'm delighted all issues are on the table and will be resolved without any exceptions," he said. "It's time for the Palestinian people to have an independent sovereign state of their own."
And Livni said she hoped that a "spark of hope" would emerge from the new talks.
"It is our task to work together so that we can transform that spark of hope into something real and lasting," she said. "I believe that history is not made by cynics. It is made by realists who are not afraid to dream. And let us be these people."
Speaking as the two sides wrapped up an initial round of talks on Tuesday, Kerry said they were committed to "sustained, continuous and substantive negotiations on the core issues" that divided them. He said the next round of negotiations would take place in either Israel or the Palestinian territories.