Palestinian-Israeli negotiators to meet

Palestinian and Israeli chief negotiators will meet for the first time in more than a year in Jordan on Tuesday.

    Negotiations have stalled because of Israeli settlement construction in occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem [EPA]

    Palestinian and Israeli negotiators will meet for the first time in more than a year in Jordan on Tuesday to discuss stalled peace talks, the Jordanian foreign ministry said on Sunday.

    "Foreign Minister Nasser Judeh on Tuesday will host a meeting including the Quartet as well as Israeli and Palestinian officials," ministry spokesman Mohammad Kayed said.

    "The minister will also host a separate meeting between Israeli and Palestinian officials."

    Kayed said the meeting would be "a serious effort to find a common ground to resume direct talks" between the Palestinians and Israel.

    Envoys of the quartet of Middle East mediators - the US, European Union, UN and Russia, are scheduled to attend, as are chief negotiator Saeb Erekat, on behalf of the Palestinians, and Yitzhak Molcho,a top aide to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, on behalf of the Israelis.

    'Not a negotiating session'

    It is to be the first official Israeli-Palestinian parley since negotiations broke off in September 2010, said a spokesman for the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) Negotiations Affairs Department, Xavier Abu Eid.

    However, he said it was not a negotiating session.

    "We are just trying to create the right environment for talks, and that includes a full settlement freeze," Abu Eid told dpa news agency.

    The discussions were welcomed by members of the quartet, with US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton calling it a "positive development."

    "We are hopeful that this direct exchange can help move us forward on the pathway proposed by the Quartet," Clinton said in a statement.

    "As the President (Barack Obama) and I have said before, the need for a lasting peace is more urgent than ever. The status quo is not sustainable and the parties must act boldly to advance the cause of peace."

    'Seize this opportunity'

    "This invitation is part of ongoing Jordanian efforts to compel Israel to comply with its international legal obligations ..., specifically its obligation to freeze all settlement construction in all the occupied Palestinian territory, including occupied East Jerusalem," Erekat said in a statement.

    He called on Israel to "seize this opportunity" and stop construction in West Bank settlements and East Jerusalem, "in order to have the conducive environment called for under the Quartet statement of 23 September 2011, for meaningful and credible talks."

    That statement had called for direct talks to be relaunched within a month, and for the sides to submit proposals on the two negotiating issues of borders and security by January 23. It also set the end of 2012 as a deadline for an agreement.

    But despite the late January deadline approaching, the Quartet has as yet been unable to revive the talks.

    A statement by Netanyahu's office said that "we are grateful to King Abdullah II and to Jordanian Foreign Minister Nasser Judeh for their initiative in convening the sides in accordance with the Quartet outline."

    While it is not a formal negotiating session, officials will seek a formula for resuming peace talks that have been deadlocked over Israeli settlement construction in the West Bank.

    Negotiations have been stalled because the Palestinians say they will only talk with the Netanyahu government if it freezes settlement activity, while Israel insists on direct talks without preconditions.

    It says it implemented a 10-month moratorium of Israeli construction in the occupied West Bank, which expired 15 months ago, and refuses another freeze.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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