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Israel, Palestinians agree to peace talks

Israel and the Palestinians are to conduct new, indirect peace talks through US special envoy George Mitchell, focussing on security and potential borders.

    Israel and the Palestinians have agreed to indirect peace talks, brokered by US special envoy to the Middle East George Mitchell.

    Mr Mitchell, who is currently in Israel, met Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu over the last two days to raise the issue of restarting negotiations. He then met Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas this afternoon.

    Israel and the Palestinians are expected to conduct four months of negotiations through a US mediator, which will focus on security issues and borders of a potential future Palestinian state.

    Mr Netanyahu and Defence Minister Ehud Barak have expressed their hope that the negotiations will lead to face-to-face talks. The Palestinian Liberation Organisation and the Arab League have also backed the talks.

    US vice President Joe Biden is also currently in Israel and is expected to talk about the peace process when he meets Israeli President Shimon Peres tomorrow.

    Mr Mitchell said in a statement: "We've begun to discuss the structure and scope of these talks and I will return to the region next week to continue our discussions. As we've said many times, we hope that these will lead to direct negotiations as soon as possible.

    "We also again encourage the parties, and all concerned, to refrain from any statements or actions which may inflame tensions or prejudice the outcome of these talks."

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