Secretary of State John Kerry announced Friday that Israeli and Palestinian leaders have reached a tentative agreement to resume long-stalled peace talks, saying that they would meet in Washington as early as next week to hash out final details for restarting negotiations.
Since becoming the nation’s top diplomat, Kerry has worked furiously behind the scenes to bring Israelis and Palestinians back to the negotiating table — he has already visited the region six times. Peace talks between the two sides have been put on hold for more than five years.
“We have reached an agreement that establishes the basis for resuming direct final status negotiations between the Palestinians and the Israelis,” Kerry told reporters in Jordan. “This is a significant and welcome step forward.”
Palestinians have insisted that negotiations with Israel be based on pre-1967 borders, while Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has countered that he would not agree to any preconditions for talks.
President Obama reached out to Netanyahu by phone on Thursday and urged him to speak with Palestinian leaders.
Kerry refused to get into the details of the tentative agreement between the two camps.
“This is a significant and welcome step forward,” he said. “The agreement is still in the process of being formalized, so we are absolutely not going to talk about any of the elements now.”
For his part, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said that recent meetings “have resulted in the Palestinians accepting the resumption of talks.”
Facilitating those discussions would serve as a major victory for the Obama administration, which has downplayed expectations for such talks in recent years. But the most difficult work still remains, as this breakthrough in no way guarantees Israel and the Palestinian territories will reach the type of compromise that has eluded them for decades.