Israel and Palestinians to resume direct talks 'on September 2'

Hillary Clinton expected to announce today that Obama will invite Netanyahu and Abbas to Washington for meeting.

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WASHINGTON // The US Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, is expected to announce today that Israel and the Palestinians will resume direct peace talks for the first time in 20 months, the New York Times has reported. The newspaper, quoting unnamed officials, said Israel's prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, and the Palestinian leader Mahmud Abbas have agreed to place a one-year time limit on the talks.

The US president, Barack Obama, is expected to invite Mr Netanyahu and Mr Abbas to Washington on September 2 to start the negotiations, Reuters quoted a diplomatic source as saying yesterday. A US State Department spokesman, Philip Crowley, told reporters yesterday: "We think we are very, very close to a decision by the parties to enter into direct negotiations. There are details that are still being worked out."

Mr Crowley said Mrs Clinton consulted with the Jordanian foreign minister, Nasser Judah, a key Arab peace broker, and Tony Blair, the former British prime minister who represents the diplomatic Quartet. The Quartet, made up of the US, Russia, the UN and the European Union, could issue a statement in support of direct peace talks that have been suspended since December 2008. Mr Crowley said: "We believe that, if we reach the point we hope to arrive at, that members of the Quartet will demonstrate their support for the process; we will demonstrate our support for the process,and we will outline specifics of where we go from here."

* AFP