The seriousness of peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians will be determined well before the nine-month target set by Washington, Israel’s chief negotiator said Wednesday.
Speaking to Channel 2 news, Justice Minister Tzipi Livni said the sides would know if they were able to reach an agreement or if they should walk away within a far shorter period.
“I believe the nine month time frame is only a marginal issue,” Livni said. “If after one month we will see that the talks aren’t headed anywhere we won’t pursue them, but on the other hand if we reach in agreement in a shorter period of time we will of course not dismiss that.”
On Tuesday night, US Secretary of State John Kerry launched talks by saying all issues would be tackled in nine months of negotiations and that he believed a permanent peace accord could be reached in that time.
On Wednesday, Consul-General Michael Ratney, a US diplomat in Israel, told reporters that the nine-month timeframe was not a deadline.
“We never set a deadline, but we have clearly set a target,” he said.
Ratney added Kerry was expected to visit the region “on a regular basis” to check on progress. He said John Allen, a retired US general, will work closely with the two sides on security arrangements.
Livni said that she believed both sides were committed to achieving a peace deal.
“If any side wished to end negotiations it wouldn’t take much, but both leaders do not seem interested in such a case,” she said.
Livni met with chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat in Washington on Monday and Tuesday to launch talks. The sides plan to convene again in mid-August in the region to continue negotiations.
Earlier Wednesday, Livni said the sides would put everything on the table for negotiation, including final-status issues that have proved sticking points in the past.
“Some people said before entering negotiations that we might only want to talk about borders, or only about security,” Livni told Israel Radio. “This is not the case, the goal is to end the conflict. You can not end a conflict and end claims if you only address some of the core issues.”