The London-based paper reported that the mood of members of the Palestinian delegation to the talks "has changed by 180 degrees after the tension enveloping them at the beginning".
The paper quoted knowledgeable sources as saying that the newfound satisfaction was due to the US determination to reach a settlement.
The sources said that Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas spoke with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on the troubles that had ended previous negotiations with former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, as well as of the Annapolis Summit. They added that the two had agreed upon a timetable of one year for the talks.
The paper also reported that Netanyahu and Abbas had discussed settlements vaguely, but no specific solutions. US President Barack Obama is said to be looking into a number of solutions for when the freeze on construction in settlements terminates on September 26.
Leaders in Washington (Photo: Reuters)
Obama is believed to be seeking a covert agreement with Netanyahu by which the latter will expand only large settlement blocs expected to be included in a future agreement, and refrain from making one-sided moves in east Jerusalem.
On the Israeli side, President Shimon Peres was also optimistic. He called the ceremony launching the talks "a very promising beginning" and expressed hope that they would "lead to actual success".
"I think that, surprisingly, it began well, considering the skepticism evident until now," Peres told reporters in Italy, where he also met with Pope Benedict XVI.
Amr Moussa, secretary-general of the Arab League, was also pleased, and surmised that the talks would be the last to take place between Israel and the Palestinians. He said the Arabs were ready to make peace with Israel in return for all territory captured in 1967, including east Jerusalem.
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