WASHINGTON - The US State Department announced Sunday that direct peace talks between the Israelis and Palestinians will resume in Washington Monday evening.

Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said in a statement that Secretary of State John Kerry had spoken with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu to personally extend an invitation to both sides to send senior negotiating teams to Washington "to formally resume direct final status negotiations."

Most Diplomats here, especially from Islamic countries, were skeptical about the success of the talks, saying Tel Aviv never abides by the commitments it makes in negotiations. They pointed out that the Israeli regime has broken all the pledges it has made in the talks with the Palestinians since the 1993 Oslo Accords.

“We are skeptical about these talks because the Israelis are not going to stop building in the settlements and because they didn’t accept the ‘67 borders,” said Tawfiq Tirawi, a member of Abbas‘ Fatah Party. “What we got in return for going back to negotiations is an American pledge that the talks will be on the ‘67 borders, and historically the Americans  always gave us such pledges, but they never abided by these pledges.”

The State Department said the initial talks were planned for 8 pm on Monday at an Iftar that Kerry will host at the State Department. They are to be followed by talks on Tuesday.

"The Israelis will be represented by Justice Minister Tzipi Livni and Yitzhak Molcho, and the Palestinians will be represented by chief negotiator Saeb Erekat and Mohammad Shtayyeh," Psaki said in the statement. "As Secretary Kerry announced on July 19 in Amman, Jordan, the Israelis and Palestinians had reached agreement on the basis for resuming direct final status negotiations. The meetings in Washington will mark the beginning of these talks. They will serve as an opportunity to develop a procedural work plan for how the parties can proceed with the negotiations in the coming months."

Psaki said Kerry once again 'commended the courage shown" by Netanyahu and Abbas in working toward a final status agreement.

Israeli government ministers approved the release of 104 Palestinian prisoners Sunday in a vote Netanyahu said "was not easy." Israel will release the prisoners in four batches beginning in August, during the nine-month negotiation process with the Palestinians, Israel Radio said.

Dozens of Palestinians in Ramallah protested the Palestinian Authority's agreement to resume peace talks with Israel, Ma'an News Agency said.

Meanwhile, John Kerry announced the appointment of former US diplomat, Martin Indyk, who once worked for the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), a powerful pro-Israel lobbying group in Washington, to serve as his special envoy to Israeli-Palestinian peace talks.

"It's been my conviction for 40 years that peace is possible," Ambassador Indyk, who is Jewish, told reporters at the State Department Monday, although he acknowledged that the task of making progress toward a breakthrough in negotiations would be a "daunting and humbling" challenge.

Agencies add: The Israeli and Palestinian delegations to renewed peace talks have agreed in principle to continue negotiations for at least nine months, the US State Department said Monday.

Separately, a major faction of the Palestine Liberation Organisation rejected new peace talks with Israel just hours before their scheduled resumption in Washington on Monday after a three-year break.

The leftist Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine said that talks' resumption was a unilateral move by Palestinian leader Mahmud Abbas which did not have the backing of the PLO as a whole.

"The PFLP is against a return to negotiations," said one of the party's leaders, Khaleda Jarar.

"It is an individual move," she said, in allusion to Abbas.

Separately, Israeli and Palestinian officials put forward clashing formats for peace talks due to resume in Washington.

Yasser Abed Rabbo, a top official in Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas's umbrella Palestine Liberation Organisation, said the US letter of invitation to the Washington talks had not specified which disputes were to be discussed.

But Abed Rabbo told Voice of Palestine radio the talks "will begin, in principle, on the issues of borders and security".

As Israeli and Palestinian negotiators headed to Washington for the resumption of peace talks, most Israeli newspapers hit out at the decision to free 104 prisoners in return. "The murderers will go free," was the top-selling daily Yediot Aharonot's front-page headline after the cabinet agreed to release the veteran Palestinian and Israeli Arab prisoners, many of them convicted militants.

President Barack Obama welcomed the imminent start of the talks, calling it a "promising step" forward but warning that "hard choices remain ahead."

"The most difficult work of these negotiations is ahead, and I am hopeful that both the Israelis and Palestinians will approach these talks in good faith," he said.