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Israel, Palestine to resume peace talks on Monday

WASHINGTON — Israeli and Palestinian negotiators will resume peace talks here on Monday night, the State Department said in a statement on Sunday afternoon.

It will be the first time that the two have held direct talks since 2010. The meeting followed an intensive effort to revive the moribund talks by Secretary of State John Kerry, which included six trips to the Middle East.

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Kerry spoke on Sunday with Mahmoud Abbas, the president of the Palestinian Authority, and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel to formally invite them to send their negotiating teams to Washington.

“Both leaders have demonstrated a willingness to make difficult decisions that have been instrumental in getting to this point,” Kerry said in a statement. “We are grateful for their leadership.”

The first meeting is planned for Monday evening, and negotiators are also planning to meet on Tuesday.

The Israeli side will be represented by Israel’s justice minister, Tzipi Livni, and Yitzhak Molcho. Saeb Erekat and Mohammed Shtayyeh will represent the Palestinian side.

The initial meetings will focus on developing a “procedural work plan” on how to conduct the talks in the coming months, the statement said.

Netanyahu worked over the weekend to convince Israelis that a resumption of the peace process was vital to the country’s interest.

The Israeli Cabinet cleared the last obstacle to resuming peace talks with the Palestinians by voting Sunday to approve the release of 104 Palestinian prisoners. The prisoner release is an unpopular move with many Israelis, but one that the Palestinian leadership has insisted upon.

The prisoners, most of whom have served at least 20 years for deadly attacks on Israelis, are to be released in batches depending upon progress in the talks. Netanyahu will lead a team of five ministers who will oversee the release. He deferred any decision on whether Arab citizens of Israel would be among the prisoners released, a longstanding point of dispute, saying that would be brought to another Cabinet vote.

A Palestinian official involved in the negotiations process, who could speak only on the condition of anonymity because of the delicacy of the talks, said earlier that the first group was expected to be released in August, and the rest within six months.

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