Obama meets Israeli and Palestinian negotiators

WASHINGTON (AFP) - US President Barack  Obama met Israeli and Palestinian negotiators on Tuesday, a day after the two sides relaunched direct peace talks after a nearly three-year hiatus.    Mr Obama “is meeting with the lead negotiators for both sides this morning,” a White House official said, referring to Israeli Justice Minister Tzipi Livni  and lead Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erakat.    It was not immediately clear what the three discussed during the  closed-door meeting, which had not been listed on the president’s official  schedule.    Mr Obama had vowed to relaunch peace talks upon taking office in 2009 but  after months of intense diplomacy was only able to convince Israeli and  Palestinian leaders to meet for a period of weeks in September 2010 before the talks collapsed.    Now, after months of shuttle diplomacy, Secretary of State John Kerry has persuaded the two sides to meet for nine months to try to resolve one of the world’s most intractable conflicts.    The latest effort has been met with skepticism, as Israel and the Palestinians remain deeply divided over the so-called “final status” issues that have bedeviled negotiators for two decades.    These include Jerusalem – claimed as a capital by both sides – the borders of a Palestinian state, the fate of Palestinian refugees and Jewish settlement activity in the occupied West Bank.