Israeli, Palestinian leaders to restart peace negotiations

By Danielle Wiener-Bronner
July 29, 2013

Middle East peace talks begin, Iraqi Shi’ites killed in coordinated attacks, and EU’s foreign policy chief urges Egyptian leaders to compromise. Today is Monday, July 29, and this is the World Wrap, brought to you by @dwbronner.  

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas (C) heads a cabinet meeting in the West Bank city of Ramallah, July 28, 2013. REUTERS/Issam Rimawi/Pool

Pathway to peace? Top Israeli and Palestinian officials will meet at the U.S. State Department tonight and tomorrow to resume peace talks between the nations for the first time in nearly three years. Secretary of State John Kerry has been working ceaselessly to bring both sides to the negotiating table, visiting the region six times in four months in an attempt to move the peace process forward. Kerry has not outline the topics to be discussed, but announced on July 19 that both sides were prepared to discuss “final status” issues, such as Jewish settlements in the West Bank, the status of East Jerusalem, and Israel’s disputed border:

This time “all of the issues that are at the core of a permanent accord will be negotiated simultaneously,” Silvan Shalom, a member of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netayahu’s cabinet and rightist Likud party, told Israel’s Army Radio. The Palestinians, with international backing, want their future state to have borders approximating the boundaries of the West Bank, adjacent East Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip before Israel captured them in the 1967 Middle East war… [Israeli President Benjamin] Netanyahu had resisted Abbas’s calls to accept the 1967 border formula before talks resumed. Shalom said that the Israeli position would help keep the talks, which are slated to last nine months, comprehensive.

The Israeli government voted on Sunday to release 104 Arab prisoners, paving the way for this week’s talks. Kerry spokeswoman Jen Psaki said the meetings will “serve as an opportunity to develop a procedural work plan for how the parties can proceed with the negotiations in the coming months.”

Street cleaners remove debris on the road at the site of a car bomb attack in Basra, 260 miles southeast of Baghdad, July 29, 2013. REUTERS/Stringer

Iraqi violence spikes. Coordinated blasts in predominantly Shi’ite neighborhoods in Iraq killed at least 60 people in one of the deadliest sectarian attacks this year:

The 17 blasts, which appeared to be coordinated, were concentrated on towns and cities in Iraq’s mainly Shi’ite south, and districts of the capital where Shi’ites live… In Baghdad’s Shi’ite stronghold of Sadr city, police and witnesses said a minivan drew up to a group of men waiting by the side of the road for day work, and the driver told them to get in before detonating an explosive device in the vehicle. “The driver asked laborers to get into the van, then he disappeared and minutes later the truck exploded, flinging the laborers’ bodies back,” said Yahya Ali, a worker who was standing nearby.

Militant groups in Iraq, including al Qaeda, have embarked on a campaign of violence in the face of Iraq’s Shi’ite-led government, raising fears that the politically unstable region will devolve into full-on sectarian conflict. Last week, al Qaeda militants freed hundreds of inmates from Abu Ghraib, further exacerbating security concerns. Violence monitoring group Iraq Body Count reports a death toll of nearly 4,000 people since the beginning of the year, 810 of them killed in July.

Supporters of deposed Egyptian President Mohamed Mursi shout slogans as they gather outside the Egyptian embassy in Sanaa to show solidarity with his supporters in Egypt, July 28, 2013. REUTERS/Khaled Abdullah

EU responds to Egypt killings. European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton called on Egypt’s interim rulers to defuse tension with the Muslim Brotherhood after a weekend of violence left 80 Mursi supporters dead:

The bloodshed has raised global anxiety that the army may move to crush the Brotherhood, a movement which emerged from decades in the shadows to win power in elections after Egypt’s 2011 Arab Spring uprising against Hosni Mubarak. Ashton, on her second trip to Egypt since Mursi’s fall, met General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, the head of the army and the man behind the overthrow of Egypt’s first freely-elected president. She also held talks with deputy interim president and prominent liberal politician Mohamed ElBaradei and interim Foreign Minister Nabil Fahmy.

The slain protesters were gunned down by Egyptian security forces, prompting criticism by the United Nations and the U.S. The Muslim Brotherhood plans to march towards a military intelligence headquarters on Monday evening, raising the possibility of more violence.

Nota Bene: An Italian bus crash killed 39 people days after 79 were killed in a rail accident in Spain.

Standouts:

Tax threat - In Mogadishu, tax collecting is a new, dangerous job. (The Associated Press)

“Burka avenger” - A Pakistani comic book stars a veiled female who battles enemies with books and pens. (The New York Times)

Paris 2.0 - France’s capital is planning a massive expansion. (The Atlantic Cities)

Fishy claims - Putin says he caught a 46-pound fish, but Russians aren’t biting. (The Independent)

Mob goes green - The Italian mafia is taking advantage of the country’s green energy push. (Al Jazeera)

From the File:

  • Pope Francis says gay people must not be marginalized.
  • Syria says government forces have recaptured Homs.
  • Bangladesh struggles to check factory safety.
  • A party in Tunisia’s ruling coalition calls for the government’s dissolution.
  • A European court will hear another case against Poland over an alleged secret CIA jail.
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