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Resuming Mideast peace talks has great significance


14:26, July 21, 2013

BEIJING, July 20 (Xinhua) -- U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry's announcement that Palestinian and Israeli negotiators will soon meet in Washington to formalize an agreement on restarting peace talks bolsters hopes of breaking the Mideast impasse.

It is known to all that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is an obstacle in the Mideast peace process that cannot be ignored.

However, it is not easy to invite the leaders of the two sides to the negotiating table as there are great differences between them on the disputed core issues.

Kerry has made six visits to the Middle East since he took office half a year ago. He has been busy mediating with the Palestinians and Israelis to promote the resumption of peace talks that stopped in October 2010 after Israel insisted on continuing the construction of settlements in the West Bank and east Jerusalem.

Since the first Mideast peace talks were held in Madrid in 1991, the Palestinians and Israel have held several rounds of negotiations but have never reached an agreement.

The path to realizing peace in the Middle East is tricky because the Israeli-Palestinian conflict touches upon settling a series of thorny issues such as boundary determination, the status of Jerusalem, the founding of a Palestinian state and the return of Palestinian refugees.

Jerusalem is a holy city to Christianity, Judaism and Islam. Its status involves the Palestinians and also relates to the religious feelings of other Arab countries, which complicates the negotiations.

Meanwhile, the issue of the return of Palestinian refugees and compensation has to be traced back to decades ago and it is hard to reach an agreement on the matter in the short term.

Moreover, the Palestinians and Israelis are divided internally on how to engage in the talks. Doves and hawks coexist in the Israeli Knesset (parliament) and the public. The hardline Islamic Hamas and the moderate Palestinian National Authority coexist amongst the Palestinians.

Hamas, for example, opposes the resumption of talks with Israel, considering negotiations "very dangerous." Apparently, it is important to bridge the inner differences on each side in order to achieve success in direct peace talks.

Though the Israeli-Palestinian issue is complicated, the resumption of the direct peace talks that stopped for as long as three years is worth cherishing.

If the leaders of the two sides need courage to go back to the negotiating table, they also need determination and wisdom to take the new opportunity to break the impasse.

During the past three years, the political structure and geo-strategic map in the Middle East has changed dramatically. Syria and Egypt have slipped into endless conflict and unrest and the Arab League has become so divided internally that it can not play its due role.

Against such a complex backdrop, the necessity and urgency to solve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is highlighted.

Relevant UN resolutions and the land-for-peace principle are the basis to fundamentally solve the issue. The United States, which has an important influence on the peace progress, should play a fair role in the talks.

For the sake of future generations and the prosperity of the Middle East, the leaders of the Israel and the Palestinians have no choice but to shake hands.

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