Israel's chief negotiator Tzipi Livni said negotiations with the Palestinians should start Monday evening when both sides meet in Washington after five years of diplomatic stalemate.
The expectation had been that the Washington meeting would prepare for a new round of Mideast peace talks, but Livni said "the idea is to start the negotiations today."
"There is a lot of cynicism and skepticism and pessimism but there is also hope," Livni told The Associated Press after meeting with UN Secretary- General Ban Ki-moon.
Livini now heads to Washington for a dinner with the Palestinians hosted by US Secretary of State John Kerry.
Video courtesy of jn1.tv
Kerry brokered an agreement early this month to bring both sides back to the negotiating table. It included a decision by Israel, which its Cabinet made on Sunday, to free 104 long-held Palestinian prisoners in four stages. That led to Monday night's dinner invitation from Kerry.
"It is the first time we are going to meet with the Palestinians today," Livni said. "But during the last four months secretary Kerry was in the region working with us and with the Palestinians. So basically we are starting today."
"I believe that by relaunching the negotiations we can recreate hope for Israelis and Palestinians as well," she said.
Kerry-Indyk press conference (Video: Reuters)
The Palestinians want a state in territories Israel captured in 1967 -- the West Bank, Gaza and east Jerusalem, which they want as their capital. They have accepted the principle of limited land swaps to allow Israel to annex some of the dozens of settlements it has built on war-won land.
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas had repeatedly said he will only resume talks if Israel either freezes settlements or recognizes the borders before the start of the 1967 war as a starting point for drawing the borders of a new Palestinian state.
Pressed on whether Israel signs on to that starting point, Livni replied: "You know what, I'm trying to build trust between us and the Palestinians, and the last thing that I want to refer to is what they said before, what they are going to say now. I'm going to meet them and we are going to discuss everything in the negotiations."
She said there are a lot of core issues that are on the table and need to be addressed including a decision on borders, ending the conflict and security for Israel.
Livni spoke soon after Kerry appointed former US ambassador to Israel, Martin Indyk, to shepherd the Israeli-Palestinian peace talks.
"I'm glad that he was nominated," Livni said. "He's familiar with all the situation in the region, the problems. He's very involved and I'd love to work with him."
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