January 2, 2012
January 2, 2012
The Palestinians are downplaying expectations ahead of their first meeting with Israel is in more than a year as the Israelis described the planned meeting as a positive step that should not be seen as renewal of negotiations.
The chief Palestinian negotiator, Saeb Erekat, and Israeli envoy Yitzhak Molcho are set to meet in Jordan on Tuesday in a bid to get peace talks restarted. Negotiations have been stalled since September 2010.
Erekat told reporters in the West Bank on Monday that he doesn’t expect any breakthroughs unless Israel agrees to halt settlement construction in the West Bank and east Jerusalem. He also said Israel must accept its 1967 lines as the basis for a future border, according to The Associated Press.
Israel captured the West Bank and east Jerusalemin the 1967 Mideastwar.
Israel rejects the Palestinian demands and says peace talks should resume without preconditions.
Meanwhile, a senior Israeli cabinet minister on Monday said that a planned meeting with Palestinian negotiators after a 16-month pause was a positive step but should not be seen as renewal of negotiations.
“This is a positive development,” Intelligence Minister and Deputy Prime Minister Dan Meridor told Israeli public radio.
“It is the first time in a long while that the Palestinians have been prepared to come and talk to us directly, without preconditions.”
Jordanian Foreign Minister Nasser Judeh will on Tuesday host Israel’s chief negotiator Yitzhak Molcho and his Palestinian counterpart Saeb Erakat for talks which will also be attended by representatives of the international Quartet of peacemakers.
Mohammed Kayed, a spokesman for Judeh’s office on Sunday said the talks represented “a serious effort to find common ground to resume direct talks.”
Meridor also said the meeting, which is to take place in Amman, did not in itself constitute a return to negotiations.
“We were not asked to make declarations at the preliminary talks,” he said. “We need to hold negotiations and in negotiations we shall submit our positions on the issues on the agenda.”
The minister expressed hope that the talks would “be an initiative that will allow the Palestinians to return to negotiations.”
The initiative to get the sides together had come from Jordan, Meridor said, describing it as a “positive change.”
“It wasn’t involved until now and this is its initiative. It is a change and a positive change,” he said.
“Jordan is a neighbor and we have important relations with it and I think that its involvement in any solution to the Palestinian problem is critical,” he added.
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.
Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas has said he will not hold talks unless Israel halts settlement construction and agrees a clear framework for talks on a two-state solution based on 1967 lines.
By AL ARABIYA WITH AGENCIES