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Middle East

Chief Israeli, Palestinian envoys meet in Jordan


Latest update : 2012-01-03

Israeli and Palestinian negotiators met in the Jordanian capital of Amman on Tuesday for their first face-to-face meeting in more than 15 months in a bid to "push for a breakthrough in the peace talks" said Jordanian Foreign Minister Nasser Judeh.

AFP - Israeli and Palestinian negotiators gathered in the Jordanian capital on Tuesday for their first face-to-face meeting in more than 15 months, but both sides insisted full-blown talks remained some way off.

Israel's chief negotiator Yitzhak Molcho, his Palestinian counterpart Saeb Erakat, Jordanian Foreign Minister Nasser Judeh and representatives of the Middle East peace quartet started their meeting at the foreign ministry in Amman, a Jordanian official said.

Judeh was to hold a separate meeting with Molcho and Erekat, said ministry spokesman Mohammad Kayed.

"We do not want to raise expectations, but holding the meetings between the Palestinians and Israelis is a Jordanian interest first and foremost," Judeh was quoted as saying by the government-owned Jordan Times on Tuesday.

"Our objective is to bring them together and try to push for a breakthrough in the peace talks."

Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas said on Tuesday the outcome of the meeting would soon be clear.

"We will know today or in the coming two days," he said, indicating that they were looking to find "the right foundation" to resume talks with Israel.

"This is a good thing and we hope Jordanian efforts work," he was quoted as saying by Jordan's state-run Petra news agency.

Earlier this week, Israeli cabinet minister Dan Meridor said the fact that a meeting was taking place was "a positive development" but said that it did not in itself constitute a return to direct talks.

Erakat made the same point in an interview with Voice of Palestine radio.

"This meeting will be devoted to discussing the possibility of making a breakthrough that could lead to the resumption of negotiations. Therefore, it will not mark the resumption of negotiations," he said on Monday.

Direct talks ground to a halt in September 2010, when an Israeli freeze on new West Bank settlement construction expired and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu declined to renew it.

"We will see what the quartet’s position will be in this meeting and if it is willing to seriously address the obstacles to the peace process and negotiations put by Israel," PLO secretary general Yasser Abed Rabbo told Voice of Palestine on Tuesday.

Abbas met with US envoy David Hale in Ramallah late on Monday and told him there would be no resumption of talks unless Israel froze its settlement construction and accepted the 1967 borders as the basis for peace talks, a Palestinian official told AFP.

The quartet, which comprises the European Union, Russia, the United Nations and the United States, has been trying to draw the two sides back to negotiations, asking them for comprehensive proposals on territory and security.

French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe called Judeh on Tuesday and said Paris backed Amman's attempt to bring the parties together.

"France welcomes Jordan's initiative," said foreign ministry spokesman Romain Nadal. "All contributions to the peace process are welcome and the Jordanian initiative is very positive."

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton urged the two sides on Monday to "act boldly" in the search for for peace.

"This direct exchange can help move us forward on the pathway proposed by the Quartet," she said.

But Abed Rabbo said Washington wanted the talks to restart "without any pre-conditions or promises on settlement expansion.

"This does not fulfill the conditions for a resumption of negotiations nor does it enable any negotiations to succeed," he said.

The meeting sparked an angry reaction from the Islamist Hamas movement which has controlled the Gaza Strip since ousting Abbas's forces in 2007 and had been inching towards a reconciliation deal with the Palestinian leadership.

"Going to such a meeting is only betting on failure," Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri told AFP on Monday.

The leftist Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine also criticised the meeting, calling it a "fatal error" which would force the Palestinians back into another pointless waiting game.


DATELINE:AMMAN, Jan 3, 2012 (AFP) -

Date created : 2012-01-03


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