WASHINGTON — The Obama administration said Friday it has invited the leaders of Israel and the Palestinian Authority to Washington next month to resume long-stalled direct peace talks, recognizing "there will be difficulties ahead" in the latest effort to achieve a final settlement of the conflict.
In announcing the invitation, which Israel quickly accepted with the Palestinian Authority expected to follow suit, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton acknowledged it will be a daunting challenge to reach agreement on the borders of a Palestinian state, the status of Jerusalem and other decades-old disagreements between the two sides — particularly in the proposed 12-month timetable.
"There have been difficulties in the past. There will be difficulties ahead," Clinton told reporters at the State Department. "I ask the parties to persevere, to keep moving forward through difficult times and to continue to work to achieve a just and lasting peace."
Clinton said Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas would come to Washington in September for a dinner at the White House with President Obama, followed by a face-to-face meeting of the two leaders that Clinton will convene the following day at the State Department.
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After these largely ceremonial talks, the negotiations are likely to continue in the region, with the U.S. acting as mediator and, if necessary, introducing proposals aimed at bridging differences between the two sides, officials said.
The U.S. will be an active participant, Clinton said, emphasizing that in the end, "these decisions will be made by the parties themselves." The U.S. was joined in pushing for the peace talks by the European Union, Russia and the United Nations.
Israeli leaders welcomed the invitation.
The PLO Executive Council was expected to gather to discuss its position on resuming talks.