Israel-Palestinian talks to resume this month

JERUSALE (AFP) - The next round of direct Israeli-Palestinian peace talks will take place in the region during the second week of August, Israel's negotiator Tzipi Livni, who is also justice minister, said on Saturday.

"These discussions that began in Washington will resume during the second week of August and will take place in the region," she told the private Channel 10 television station.

She said the talks would alternate between Israel and the Palestinian territories, and that the first of the 104 Palestinian prisoners to be released would take place before the negotiations resume.

Asked if the agreement with Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erakat aiming to reach a peace deal within nine months would be respected, the minister was cautious.

"If after eight months we see that an agreement is near and more time is needed, we will continue. But if the discussions are not serious, we will know this within a month," she said.

On Wednesday, Ms Livni said she was "encouraged" by the first round of direct peace talks with the Palestinians held in Washington at the start of this week after months of dogged US diplomacy ended a three-year hiatus.

"I am encouraged ... coming out of the first meeting," she said in an interview broadcast by army radio. "It was an event in which there was a kind of excitement and also hope."

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