Israel/Palestine peace within 9 months?

US Secretary of State says they hope to reach an agreement in less than a year.

FILE: An Israeli soldier fires a tear gas canister during clashes with Palestinian stone throwers in the West Bank city of Hebron. Picture: AFP

WASHINGTON - Israel and the Palestinians will seek to reach a peace agreement within nine months and negotiators will meet again within two weeks after holding a "positive" first round of talks, US Secretary of State John Kerry said on Tuesday.

Senior aides to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas held their first talks this week since 2010, but focused largely on the framework for negotiations rather than the substance of their dispute.

Speaking after the meetings, which included a session with President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden as well as direct talks between the two sides without US officials present, Kerry said he believed peace was possible despite the obstacles.

"I am pleased to report that in the conversations we have had last night and again today, we have had constructive and positive meetings," he said, flanked by Israeli Justice Minister Tzipi Livni and Palestinian chief negotiator Saeb Erekat.

"I know the path is difficult. There is no shortage of passionate skeptics. But with capable, respected negotiators ... I am convinced that we can get there," he added. "All of the core issues, and all other issues, are all on the table for negotiation."

Kerry, who has prodded, coaxed and cajoled the two sides to resume negotiations in a flurry of visits to the Middle East during his less than six months in office, has urged Israelis and Palestinians to strike "reasonable compromises."

The United States is seeking to broker an agreement on a "two-state solution," in which Israel would exist peacefully alongside a new Palestinian state created in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, lands occupied by the Israelis since a 1967 war.

The major issues to be resolved in the talks include borders, the future of Jewish settlements in the West Bank, the fate of Palestinian refugees and the status of Jerusalem.