A nine-month deadline has been placed on a final peace deal between Israeli and Palestinian negotiators, according to US Secretary of State John Kerry. Talks between the two parties will resume in two weeks.
A three-year freeze on talks ended on Tuesday in Washington DC, with Kerry telling reporters both sides had agreed on which issues were key if peace was to be reached. Those issues include the definition of borders, refugees and the status of Jerusalem. The next round of talks will take place in either Israel or the Palestinian territories.
"The parties have agreed to remain engaged in sustained, continuous and substantive negotiations on the core issues," said Kerry, standing side-by-side with 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," he said.
"[Those key issues] are on the table with one simple goal: a view to ending the conflict, ending the claims," Kerry added. "Our objective will be to achieve a final status agreement over the course of the next nine months."
The top US diplomat went on to say there was "no other alternative" than a two-state solution. Kerry's work to reignite peace talks was praised by Erakat, while Livni said it was their task to "work together so that we can transform that spark of hope into something real and lasting".
The parties met with US president Barack Obama as part of talks. Attempts to last open negotiations in 2010 were almost immediately unsuccessful, with the previous talks being held in 2008.
Talks fail to please all
The latest round of negotiations have, however, been condemned by Islamist militant group Hamas, which controls the Gaza strip.
There are also doubts over the motives of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
"The question is whether Netanyahu is happy with simply holding negotiations or if he really wants to reach a peace accord," Israeli public radio presenter Chico Menache told AFP news agency. "It's difficult to know if he's ready to make territorial concessions on Israeli settlements."
ph/dr (AFP, AP)