Kerry announces Israel-Palestine peace talks
US-backed Israel-Palestine peace talks to resume in Washington

Negotiators representing Israel and Palestine are to hold peace talks in Washington after nearly a three-year standoff in the Middle East region.

The US State Department has said senior aides from both sides will be involved in a series of talks, an effort painstakingly orchestrated by John Kerry over the last few months.

"Both leaders [of Israel and Palestine] have demonstrated a willingness to make difficult decisions that have been instrumental in getting to this point. We are grateful for their leadership," Kerry said in a statement.

The Israeli delegation is represented by Justice Minister Tzipi Livni and Yitzhak Molcho while chief negotiator Saeb Erekat and Mohammad Shtayyeh will speak for Palestine.

"We call on Israel to seize the opportunity... to put an end to decades of occupation and exile and to start a new stage of justice, freedom and peace for Israel, Palestine and the rest of the region," Erekat said.

Ahead of the talks, Kerry formally spoke to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas over telephone.

Kerry said both leaders have agreed that the upcoming talks would "serve as an opportunity to develop a procedural work plan for how the parties can proceed with the negotiations in the coming months".

Kerry made an announcement about the proposed talks while in Amman, Jordan, recently. Hamas, the Palestine-based Sunni movement which controls the Gaza Strip, quickly rejected it.

The talks are to resume hours after Israel announced the release of more than 100 Palestinian prisoners. Both sides are likely to continue their dialogue through the week.

Some analysts doubt whether the talks will provide any tangible breakthrough in the troubled Israel-Palestine relations.

The US hopes the dialogue will provide a platform to iron out thorny issues like Israeli settlements in the West Bank, Palestinian prisoners and Jerusalem's status.

"The problematic issues are numerous. It's hard to believe that any progress can come about, but one cannot ignore the opportunity and one must give the process a chance," an Israeli source familiar with the matter told Ynet news.