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Israel, Palestinians Welcome Announcement of Talks

Israel and the Palestinians are both welcoming the U.S. announcement on the resumption of direct negotiations between the two.

Israeli and Palestinian officials both said they had achieved what they had wanted before agreeing to restart direct talks.

Israel had called for talks without preconditions. The Palestinians had asked for a timeframe and negotiations that would cover all the key issues and culminate with an independent Palestinian state along borders that existed before Israel's 1967 occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

Palestinian spokesman Ghassan Khatib, director of the Palestinian Government Media Center, tells VOA Palestinian leaders are encouraged by the decision to limit talks to one year.

"The timeframe that was announcement is a big achievement because the Palestinians have been all along insisting on the need to have clear terms of reference for the negotiations in order to avoid repeating the previous negotiations that were stalled, actually, and allowed only consolidation of occupation rather than progress toward ending the occupation which is the pre requisite for peace," he said.

Also speaking to VOA, Mark Regev, a spokesman for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, said Israel wants the talks to be productive.

"From Israel's perspective, all the core issues of the conflict are on the table and are open to negotiation," he said. "We'll bring our positions to the table. The Palestinians will bring their positions to the table. Ultimately, if leadership is exercised on both sides and I know the Israeli side is committed to this process, a deal is possible. I say that without in any way minimizing the challenges."

Among the bigger challenges tempering the optimism is the construction of Jewish settlements in the occupied West Bank, on the land where Palestinians want their future state.

Israel set a self-imposed moratorium on construction. But that freeze expires on September 26 and there has been no sign that Mr. Netanyahu's right-wing governing coalition will extend it.

Palestinian officials on Friday said the resumption of building of Israeli settlements would be - in their words - dangerous to the peace process that is barely getting underway.