Kerry Appoints Veteran Diplomat to Manage Mideast Talks

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WASHINGTON -- With peace talks between the Israelis and Palestinians set to resume on Monday night, Secretary of State John Kerry appointed a veteran Middle East hand to manage what are expected to be difficult negotiations: Martin S. Indyk, a former American ambassador to Israel.

In a brief appearance at the State Department, Mr. Kerry urged Israelis and Palestinians to seek "reasonable compromise on tough, complicated, emotional and symbolic issues."

While negotiating a Middle East peace agreement is widely seen as an uphill struggle, Mr. Kerry said "the consequences of not trying could be worse."

Mr. Indyk served two diplomatic tours as the American ambassador to Israel. He also served during the Clinton administration as assistant secretary of state for Near East affairs and worked on Middle East policy on the National Security Council.

Frank Lowenstein, Mr. Kerry's longtime adviser on the Middle East, will serve as Mr. Indyk's deputy.

Mr. Indyk, who is taking a leave from the Brookings Institution to assume his new role, told reporters that 15 years ago his son designed a screen saver for his computer that constantly flashed, "Dad, is there peace in the Middle East?"

"For 15 years, I've only been able to answer him 'not yet,' " Mr. Indyk said, adding that he hoped he would one day be able to say, "this time we actually made it."

The last obstacle to resuming peace talks was overcome on Sunday when the Israeli cabinet voted to approve the release of 104 Palestinian prisoners, an unpopular move with many in Israel.

Mr. Kerry is hosting a working dinner on Monday night with Israeli and Palestinian negotiators, who will meet again on Tuesday before returning to the region.

The talks are initially expected to focus on procedural issues, including the location, schedule and format of negotiating sessions, before approaching the core issues of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

The Israeli side will be represented by Tzipi Livni, Israel's justice minister, and Isaac Molho, a special envoy to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. On the Palestinian side will be Saeb Erekat, the chief negotiator, and Mohammed Shtayyeh, a close adviser to Mahmoud Abbas, the president of the Palestinian Authority.

The next round of talks would be held in the Middle East and would be managed for the United States side by Mr. Indyk.


This article originally appeared in The New York Times.


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