The US government has invited the two major parties to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict to a summit in Washington on 2 September 2010.
The purpose, said Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, is to re-start direct peace negotiations with a view to completing them and finding a lasting solution "within a year".
Commentators have been amazed at the boldness and ambition of the plan, given the failure of a series of comparable initiatives over the past ten years.
The move comes after months of intense international pressure on the Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu and the Palestinian President, Mahmoud Abbas, to agree to the first face-to-face political talks for more than 18 months.
The two men are expected to attend the launch of the negotiations by President Obama.
The aim is to end 43 years of Israeli occupation and usher in an autonomous Palestinian state alongside the Jewish one.
Hamas is still refusing to engage in direct talks, but it is hoped that the pressure on them will grow if the parameters of a settlement can be agreed.
Ms Clinton acknowledged the many obstacles facing the talks. She said: "There have been difficulties in the past; there will be difficulties ahead. I ask the parties to persevere, to keep moving forward even through difficult times and to continue working to achieve a just and lasting peace in the region."
The Palestinian President had been seeking explicit "parameters" for the talks, including an agreement that a future two-state solution to the conflict should be based on Israel's pre-1967 borders.
The new Quartet statement does not itself refer to the settlements issue directly, says the Independent newspaper in London, but instead reaffirms a "full commitment" to statements made at the Moscow and Trieste meetings earlier this year.