Kevin Pietersen and the England and Wales Cricket Board have announced that they have agreed "a process for his re-integration into the England team" but he looks unlikely to make his return before the new year.

Pietersen has not played international cricket since the second Test against South Africa in the summer, being dropped for the series finale and then being left out of the World Twenty20 squad despite reversing his limited-overs retirement.

Discussions have been ongoing behind the scenes in a bid to establish common ground with Pietersen and while Wednesday's news appears positive in terms of Pietersen continuing his England career, the forthcoming Test tour to India looks likely to be too soon.

There was no news about a central contract for Pietersen, whose previous deal with the ECB expired two days ago, but the issue of "provocative" phone messages to friends in the Proteas dressing room appears to have been finally resolved.

Certainty has been a scarce commodity throughout the recent saga, meaning a Pietersen return for the four Tests in India cannot be ruled out. But reports that he would be parachuted into the main touring party after a full and frank apology were wide of the mark.

Wednesday's statement read: "ECB and Kevin Pietersen confirm that agreement has been reached concerning a process for his re-integration into the England team during the remainder of 2012. Upon completion of the programme, the England Selectors will consider Kevin for future matches.

"Kevin Pietersen has apologised to Andrew Strauss and wishes to express to all those who support England his regrets at the impact the recent controversies have had on the England Team. He now wishes to put the events of the summer behind him and to focus on regaining his place in the England Team."

The exact content of the messages sent by Pietersen to South Africa players has not been established but the ECB have accepted a promise by the player that they were not critical of his England colleagues or tactically sensitive.

"With regards the issue of the BBM (Blackberry Messenger) messages, due to the fact that Kevin had not retained the BBM messages, this matter has been successfully concluded through a binding assurance provided to ECB by Kevin," the release continued.

"Kevin conceded that the messages exchanged were provocative. ECB is satisfied, following receipt of this binding assurance, that to the best of his recollection, Kevin did not convey any messages which were derogatory about the England Captain, the England Team Director, the ECB or employees of the ECB. Furthermore, there was no tactical information whatsoever provided to members of the South African Touring Party."