Israel approves 1000 new settlements

The Israeli Government has approved up to 1000 new settlements three days before peace talks with the Palestinians resume in Jerusalem.

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Kerry names former US ambassador as Middle East envoy

Martin Indyk speaking in Qatar earlier this year. Credit: Mohammed Dabbous/Reuters

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry has named former U.S. ambassador to Israel Martin Indyk as his main envoy in Israeli-Palestinian talks starting in Washington tonight.

Mr Indyk, 62, has served two terms as US ambassador to Israel from 1995 and 2000, and worked with Israeli prime ministers Yitzhak Rabin and Ehud Barak on the Oslo peace process.

The announcement follows Israel's approval of the release of more than 100 Palestinian prisoners.


US invited Middle East negotiators to resume talks

A statement from the US State Department has confirmed Israeli and Palestinian negotiators have been invited to resume peace talks in Washington on Monday and Tuesday.

Today (US Secretary of State John) Kerry spoke with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister (Benjamin) Netanyahu and personally extended an invitation to send senior negotiating teams to Washington to formally resume direct final status negotiations.

Initial meetings are planned for the evening of Monday July 29 and Tuesday July 30.

– State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki

Netanyahu: Jail releases 'not easy' but must be done

The prisoner releases allow Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to sidestep other Palestinian demands, especially over territory. Credit: Martin H. Simon/DPA/Press Association Images

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has said the release of long-held Palestinian prisoners was "not easy" for Israelis but "must be made for the good of the nation".

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has demanded the release of prisoners held since before a 1993 interim peace accord took effect.

Israel has jailed thousands more Palestinians since then, many for carrying out deadly attacks.

Speaking before his cabinet voted in favour of the releases, Mr Netanyahu said: "This moment is not easy for me, is not easy for the cabinet ministers, and is not easy especially for the bereaved families, whose feelings I understand."

He went on: "But there are moments in which tough decisions must be made for the good of the nation and this is one of those moments."

Israeli cabinet approves Palestinian prisoners' release

Israel's cabinet has approved the release of dozens of long-held Palestinian prisoners in an attempt to help restart Middle East peace talks and end nearly three years of diplomatic standstill.

Thirteen ministers in Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's cabinet authorised the release, seven voted against and two abstained, a government official said. A total of 104 Arab prisoners were approved to be freed.


Israel stands firm on territory amid prisoner releases

Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz said Israel would not heed to all the sticking points. Credit: REUTERS/Ronen Zvulun

Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz has said the release of long-held Palestinian prisoners will be carried out in phases but said Israel would not give way on demands for territory.

The prisoners have been held since before 1993, the year the two sides signed a temporary deal - the Oslo Accords - that was intended to lead to an independent Palestinian state.

But Mr Steinitz added: "There is no chance that we will agree to enter any negotiations that begins with defining territorial borders or concessions by Israel, nor a construction freeze."

UN chief 'encouraged' by Middle East talks progress

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said he is "encouraged" that the basis to resume peace talks between Israel and Palestine has been established.

Ban also commended the efforts of US Secretary of State John Kerry and the decision by Israeli and Palestinian officials "to return to the negotiating table".

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has welcomed the Middle East talks progress. Credit: Dennis Van Tine/ABACA USA/Empics Entertainment

His office said in a statement, "He is encouraged by this positive development and calls on both sides to show leadership, courage, and responsibility to sustain this effort towards achieving the two-state vision".

The UN added that it will "support any endeavour towards meaningful negotiations and to the achievement of a comprehensive peace in the region".

Hague welcomes Middle East peace talks progress

Foreign Secretary William Hague has welcomed the announcement that Israel and the Palestinians will meet to finalise an agreement on relaunching peace talks for the first time in five years.

Mr Hague said Britain "stands ready to do all we can" to support the peace process.

British Foreign Secretary William Hague has welcomed the Middle East talks progress. Credit: Mohamed Farag/AA/ABACAPRESS. COM

He commended the leadership shown by Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, but stressed "this is of course a beginning, not an end".

Mr Hague said, "I warmly welcome Secretary Kerry's announcement this evening that Israel and the Palestinians have reached an agreement that establishes the basis for resuming direct final status negotiations".

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