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Mideast peace talks seen as a beginning, not an end

From Charley Keyes, CNN Senior Producer
  • State Department: "We do not expect to achieve peace in one meeting"
  • Netanyahu, Abbas and Obama to dine together Wednesday at the White House
  • Israeli prime minister calls peace "an attainable goal"

Washington (CNN) -- The Obama administration on Monday portrayed the Mideast peace talks set to get under way Thursday as a beginning, not an end.

"While the parameters of an ultimate comprehensive peace agreement are well known, we do not expect to achieve peace in one meeting," State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley told reporters.

"I think we want to see the launch of a vigorous process that will involve significant involvement of the leaders themselves as well as regular interaction with their respective negotiating teams as well as the full participation of the United States," he said.

Crowley said the State Department is working out details of the event, which will include a White House dinner Wednesday night with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.

If past events are a guide, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will welcome the Israeli and Palestinian delegations to the State Department on Thursday morning in the ornate eighth-floor Benjamin Franklin Room.

Afterward, the Mideast envoy for the Obama administration, former Sen. George Mitchell, is expected to brief reporters, Crowley said.

The talks come in the midst of Ramadan, when Muslims fast during the day. It is unclear how long Thursday's talks at the State Department might continue.

"I don't know if there is a meal included," Crowley said.

In Israel, Netanyahu told Likud party members at a New Year's toast that any peace agreement with the Palestinians would be based on the acceptance of the Jewish people's right to a homeland, and effective security arrangements, according to the Israeli newspaper Haaretz.

"We will not be satisfied with papers and promises," Netanyahu said. "We will not allow the firing of thousands of rockets and missiles from Palestinian territories into Israel as was the case when we pulled out of Lebanon and Gaza. That is not peace. ... We want real agreements on the ground that ensure the security of Israel and its citizens."

He added, "I am not na´ve, but I believe that a permanent peace agreement is an attainable goal."