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Israelis, Palestinians Resume Peace Talks

The first round of Israeli-Palestinian peace talks in nearly seven years opened in Jerusalem on Wednesday, as the two sides tried to sustain momentum begun last month at Annapolis, Md., and move toward ending six decades of hostility.

An Israeli military operation that killed six militants in the Gaza Strip and a plan to expand a Jewish settlement in east Jerusalem have complicated the talks.

The Gaza operation was not expected to disrupt the talks since Israeli troops had withdrawn to a buffer zone along the territory's border with Israel by daybreak Wednesday. However, Palestinian officials refused to discuss other issues until Israel agrees to halt construction in the territories the Palestinians want as part of a future state.


The last round of talks crumbled in early 2001. Since then, more than 4,400 Palestinians and 1,100 Israelis have been killed in fighting.

Israel and the Palestinians formally relaunched peacemaking at an international conference last month in the United States. They set an ambitious target of December 2008 — near the end of President Bush's tenure — to conclude a peace deal.

Negotiators are expected to quickly move to issues that have buried past talks — West Bank settlements, borders between Israel and a future Palestinian state, sovereignty over disputed Jerusalem and the right of return for Palestinian refugees.

Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni and former Palestinian Prime Minister Ahmed Qureia, the chief negotiators of the two sides, are expected to lead Wednesday's talks. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert aren't scheduled to attend, though the men, who speak regularly, are expected to meet soon.

From NPR reports and The Associated Press


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