U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has announced that Middle East peace talks will resume next week.
U.S. envoy George Mitchell is due to arrive in the Middle East in the coming days to launch new peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians. But in a sign of deep distrust, negotiations will be indirect instead of face to face. They are known as "proximity talks."
"Obviously, proximity talks is not direct talks. It's less good, but we see it as a corridor to moving forward, and we're hopeful that this process will gain momentum," said Israeli spokesman Mark Regev.
The peace process has been deadlocked over Israeli building in disputed East Jerusalem, on territory the Palestinians seek as the capital of a future state. The construction angered both the United States and the Palestinians, who see the settlements as an obstacle to peace.
Under U.S. pressure, Israel has quietly curbed construction in East Jerusalem, and the Palestinians have agreed to return to peace talks. But Palestinian chief negotiator Saeb Erekat warned Israel that settlement expansion could torpedo negotiations.
"I want to give Senator Mitchell a chance. I want to give talks the chance," he said. "I want to reach an agreement. So do not put mines in my footsteps."
Expectations for a peace agreement are low because of deep differences on key issues such as the status of Jerusalem, Palestinian refugees and final borders. But after a 16-month deadlock, getting the sides to sit down and talk is seen as a breakthrough.