Israeli and Palestinian leaders agreed Thursday to produce a framework for a permanent peace agreement and to hold a second round of direct talks later this month, the AP reported. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas will meet again on Sept. 14 and 15 in the Middle East, likely at the Egyptian Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh.
The United States' special Mideast envoy George Mitchell declared the agreement after several hours of talks between Netanyahu and Abbas at the State Department. "I believe these two leaders — President Abbas and Prime Minister Netanyahu — are committed to doing what it takes to achieve the right results," Mitchell told reporters.
Mitchell said both he and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton would be at the next round. Diplomats said it will likely also include other officials from the "Quartet" of Mideast peacemakers — the U.S., the U.N., Russia and the European Union.
Earlier, Clinton had opened the talks with an appeal for the two leaders to overcome a long history of failed attempts to resolve the conflict and make the difficult compromises needed for peace. "I know the decision to sit at this table was not easy," said Clinton, who with Mitchell has been working to relaunch talks stalled for 20 months. "We understand the suspicion and skepticism that so many feel borne out of years of conflict and frustrated hopes."
Clinton said the Obama administration was committed to a settlement.
Netanyahu and Abbas vowed to work together. "I see in you a partner for peace," Netanyahu told Abbas. "Together we can lead our people to a historic future that can put an end to claims and to conflict. Now this will not be easy. A true peace, a lasting peace would be achieved only with mutual and painful concessions from both sides."
Abbas called on Israel to end Jewish settlements in the West Bank and other areas that the Palestinians want to be part off their own state. Netanyahu insisted that any agreement must assure Israel's security as a Jewish state. "We do know how hard are the hurdles and obstacles we face during these negotiations — negotiations that within a year should result in an agreement that will bring peace," Abbas said.