Israel to negotiate core issues with Palestine

By Xinhua

Jerusalem : Israel and the Palestinians will form a special committee for talks over the core issues of their conflict, local media reported Sunday.

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The committee, led by Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni and former Palestinian prime minister Ahmed Qurei, will allow the two sides to engage in a real dialogue, an Israeli senior political source was quoted by local daily Ha’aretz as saying.

Negotiations over the core issues – refugees, Jerusalem and borders – will begin after U.S. President George W. Bush’s visit to the region this week, while the remaining issues will be discussed in other committees, the report said.

Livni and Qurei also agreed in principle that Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas would continue to meet every two weeks and focus on monitoring the progress in the negotiations, while they serve to break deadlocks in the negotiating committees.

Bush is due to visit Israel and the Palestinian territory later this week as part of a regional tour that will cover seven states in nine days, during which the U.S. president is expected to press Israel and Palestinians to accelerate their recently revived peace talks.

Since the Annapolis conference in late November, in which Israel and the PA pledged to strive for a final-status agreement within a year, talks between the two sides have been low-key with no progress evident. The sense of an impasse intensified following contentious meetings regarding continued Israeli construction in settlements in East Jerusalem.