Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and special Mideast peace envoy George Mitchell.
At the State Department this morning, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Special Envoy for Middle East Peace Talks George Mitchell detailed plans for direct piece talks between Israeli and Palestinian officials, scheduled to start in early September.
"After proximity talks and consultations with both sides, on behalf of the U.S. government, I've invited Israeli President Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority President [Mahmoud] Abbas to meet on September 2, in Washington, to relaunch direction negotiations to resolve all final status issues, which we believe can be completed within one year," Clinton said.
Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, King Abdullah II of Jordan, and Tony Blair, Envoy of the Quartet on the Middle East (United Nations, Russian Federation, the European Union, and the U.S.), have also received invitations to attend some of the meetings, which will be preceded by a dinner at the White House, with President Obama.
In her statement, Clinton was optimistic, yet she acknowledged that the process probably will not be easy:
"As we move forward, it is important that actions by all sides help to advance our effort, not hinder it," she said. "There have been difficulties in the past, there will be difficulties ahead. Without a doubt, we will hit more obstacles."
Asked about how the U.S. and the Quartet, with the leaders of Israel and the Palestinian Authority, reached this turning point, Mitchell said he thinks "it's the cumulative result of the efforts made over time, and the recognition by the parties that this is the right time."
We will be active participants and there is broad support, as you know, by members of the Quartet and others around the world, but in the end these decisions will be made by the parties themselves.
According to Mitchell, "all final status issues will be on the table, and he and his colleagues believe "that the best outcome is an agreement which results in two states, living side-by-side in peace and security, and that the only way that can be achieved is through direct negotiations between the parties in which the U.S. will be an active and sustained participant, and with the full support of our many friends and allies around the world."
Hamas will not be involved in the negotiations, he said.
In a statement, the members of the Quartet on the Middle East said they "reaffirm their strong support for direct negotiations between the Israelis and the Palestinians to resolve all final status issues."
The Quartet expresses its determination to support the parties throughoutthe negotiations, which can be completed within one year, and theimplementation of an agreement. The Quartet again calls on both sides toobserve calm and restraint, and to refrain from provocative actions and inflammatory rhetoric.