Jordan praises Israeli-Palestinian talks

First meeting between Israelis and Palestinians in 15 months described as "serious" bid to restart peace talks.

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

    Jordan's foreign minister has said the first meetings between Israeli and Palestinian peace negotiators in more than a year ended without any significant breakthroughs.

    Nasser Judeh, who hosted Tuesday's meeting in Amman, said the talks were held in a positive atmosphere.

    Although he said there were no breakthroughs on matters of "substance", he said "the important thing is the two sides have met face to face".

    Peace talks broke down in September 2010. The Palestinians say they will not resume talks while Israel continues to build Jewish settlements in the West Bank and east Jerusalem. Israel insists on talks without preconditions.

    Israel's chief negotiator Yitzhak Molcho, his Palestinian counterpart Saeb Erakat, Judeh and representatives of the Middle East Peace Quartet started their meeting at the foreign ministry, a Jordanian official said.

    Before the meetings, Judeh was quoted by the government-owned Jordan Times as saying: "Our objective is to bring them together and try to push for a breakthrough in the peace talks."

    'Right environment'

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

    Earlier, Nasser Judeh, Jordan's foreign minister, said that Tuesday's meeting was a "serious" bid to help relaunch the stalled peace talks.

    Jordan has a 1994 peace treaty with Israel.

    Tony Blair, the envoy of the international Quartet on the Middle East, was expected to attend the session, along with other officials of the grouping, made up of the European Union, Russia, the UN and the US.

    "It is a serious effort to find a common ground between the two sides and help restart direct peace talks," Mohammad Kayed, the Jordanian foreign ministry spokesman, said.

    "All sides should invest in this opportunity and help create the right environment for the success of this effort through refraining from unilateral and provocative actions."

    Long-awaited meeting

    The meeting was the first official Israeli-Palestinian meeting since negotiations broke off in 2010, according to Xavier Abu Eid, a spokesman for the negotiations affairs department of the Palestine Liberation Organisation. However, he said it was not a negotiating session.

    Erakat made the same point in an earlier 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.

    Dan Meridor, a senior Israeli cabinet minister who also holds the intelligence portfolio and the post of deputy prime minister, told Israeli public radio that the meeting was "a positive development".

    He said the meeting did not in itself constitute a return to direct talks, but expressed hope it would be a springboard which would "allow the Palestinians to return to negotiations".

    'Talks about talks'

    Al Jazeera's senior political analyst Marwan Bishara said the meeting was merely about having "talks about talks".

    "The Israelis need it. It seems Abbas needs it for the time being," he said. "Certainly the Europeans and the Americans need to give the impression that there is a peace process going on. It is a win-win situation for everybody, but a win-win situation that it seems, utterly, will fail."

    Direct talks ground to a halt in September 2010, when an Israeli freeze on new West Bank construction expired and Benjamin Netanyahu, the prime minister, declined to renew it. Israel insists on direct talks without preconditions.

    "What the Palestinians are saying is 'we are not negotiating'. The endgame is [Israel] must stop the settlements and recognise the two state solution on the borders of 1967.

    Otherwise, the idea of negotiating over the pie, while Israel is eating the pie slowly but surely, is not going to lead to any good ending between them," Bishara said.

    "The government of Mr Netanyahu says if Abbas and Hamas meet and reconcile then there will be no peace process.

    "On the other hand the peace process has been, for the past 20 or so years, more a process, an ongoing open ended process that is not leading to peace," he said.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and agencies


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