Mideast negotiators to meet for first time in months
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, which has a 1994 peace treaty with Jordan.
In Ramallah, a source close to the talks said that Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erakat and his Israeli counterpart Yitzhak Molcho would meet in Jordan under the auspices of the so-called Quartet of major diplomatic players.
"The international Quartet has decided to hold a meeting bringing together its representatives and the Jordanian foreign minister, along with Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erakat and Israeli negotiator Yitzhak Molcho," said the source speaking on condition of anonymity.
"The meeting will discuss the visions of the Palestinian and Israeli sides for the resumption of Israeli-Palestinian negotiations that have been on hold since September 2010," the source added.
Israel confirmed that Molcho would go to the Amman meeting, although it made no direct reference to meeting the Palestinians.
"Yitzhak Molcho, the personal envoy of the Prime Minister of Israel, Benjamin Netanyahu, in negotiations with the Palestinians, will travel the day after tomorrow to Amman, the capital of Jordan, to take part in a Quartet meeting," a statement from Netanyahu's office said.
"We thank the king of Jordan and the Jordanian foreign minister for their initiative in convening the sides in accordance with the Quartet outline."
Direct talks ground to a halt shortly after they resumed in 2010, when an Israeli freeze on most settlement construction in the occupied West Bank expired and Netanyahu declined to renew it.
Palestinian president Mahmud 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.
The Quartet, made up of the European Union, Russia, the United Nations and the United States, has been trying to draw the two sides back to the negotiating table, asking each to submit comprehensive proposals on territory and security.
But the efforts have failed to produce direct talks, and a Palestinian official said on Sunday that the Tuesday meeting would not constitute a departure from Abbas's position on the need for an Israeli settlement freeze.
The meeting "is not a resumption of negotiations," the official said.
"The goal of the meeting is to make more serious efforts to restart talks based on Israel's implementation of its obligations to freeze settlement activity and recognise the 1967 lines as the basis for negotiations."
In Washington, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said the United States backed the Jordan meetings, and urged the parties to take advantage of the opportunity to make some progress.
"We welcome and support this positive development," Clinton said in a statement.
"We are hopeful that this direct exchange can help move us forward on the pathway proposed by the Quartet," she said.
"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."