• Israelis, Palestinians hold productive direct talks

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    WASHINGTON, D.C.: Israeli and Palestinian officials were on Tuesday due to meet for a second day of direct talks as for the first time in three years they resume negotiations groping for an elusive peace deal.

    United States (US) Secretary of State John Kerry was to host a second meeting between Israeli chief negotiator Tzipi Livni and her Palestinian counterpart Saeb Erakat after they first shared an iftar dinner after sundown om Monday.

    “It was a constructive and productive meeting between the parties. They engaged in good faith and with seriousness of purpose,” a senior State Department official said in a statement, after the dinner lasting about 90 minutes.

    “We are looking forward to continuing the talks tomorrow morning.”

    In a symbolic moment of peace and tolerance in the elegant Thomas Jefferson room, the two sides feasted on a dinner of sweet corn and shell bean soup, grilled fillet of Atlantic grouper, saffron Farro risotto and apricot upside-down cake, washed down with peach and mango iced tea.

    It is the first time the two sides have publicly come face-to-face since the last talks collapsed spectacularly in September 2010 over continued Israeli settlement building.

    This time, Kerry who spent months shuttling back and forth to the region has insisted that the details of the negotiations be kept private to give them the best chance of success.

    Officials have said that these opening talks are meant to set out procedures and the agenda for going forward, and will not go into the thorny details of such issues as borders and refugees.

    Kerry was flanked at the dinner by seasoned diplomat Martin Indyk whom he named earlier as the US special envoy to the talks, and by White House Middle East advisory Phil Gordon on the other.

    It is expected that Indyk will take over the day-to-day overseeing of the negotiations, moving forward.

    AFP

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