Israel, Palestinians to meet tomorrow; prospects hazy

2012-01-02 09:52

Israeli and Palestinian negotiators will meet this week after more than a year of deadlock in peacemaking, but both sides played down prospects of any imminent resumption of talks.

Yitzhak Molcho of Israel and Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat will meet tomorrow in Jordan alongside representatives of the Quartet of Middle East mediators – the United States, the European Union, Russia and the United Nations.

“This aims at reaching a common ground to resume direct talks between the two sides and to achieve a Palestinian-Israeli peace accord ... by the end of 2012,” the official Jordanian news agency Petra quoted Mohammad al-Kayed, spokesperson of the Foreign Ministry in Amman, as saying.

“It is essential that both sides take advantage of this opportunity,” US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said in a statement released in Washington.

Negotiations stalled in late 2010 after Israel refused to renew a partial freeze on Jewish settlement in the occupied West Bank as demanded by the Palestinians.

The Palestinians say they cannot hold talks while Israel cements its hold on land where, along with the Gaza Strip, they intend to found a state. Israel says peacemaking should have no preconditions.

The Israelis and Palestinians will meet bilaterally as well as with the Quartet in Amman, according to Kayed and Clinton.

Israel said Molcho would “take part in the Quartet meeting” yet made no mention of Erekat in its statement, or of direct contacts with the Palestinians.

Wasl Abu Yossef, a senior figure in Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’s umbrella PLO executive, described tomorrow’s meeting as a forum for the sides to “offer their positions on security and borders” as requested by the Quartet in October.

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