Out of the limelight, pre-peace talks continue
Palestinians consider ending peace talks, turning to UN
By Khaled abu Toameh, JPost
PA official says there will be only one more Israel-PA meeting before Quartet’s January 26 deadline for resuming direct negotiations; Abbas may ask UN to demand end to settlement building as alternative to talks.
The Palestinians are considering ending the talks with Israel in Jordan and searching for other alternatives, such as asking the UN to demand an end to construction in thesettlements, the London-based Al-Hayat newspaper reported Sunday.
Saturday’s third session between Israeli envoy Yitzhak Molcho and chief PLO negotiator Saeb Erekat, was held at the headquarters of the Jordanian General Intelligence Department in Amman.
Al-Hayat quoted a senior Palestinian official as saying that there would be only one more meeting between the two sides on January 25.
The official said that the planned meeting would be decisive because it would determine whether the two parties would be able to move to direct negotiations or declare the failure of the Amman talks.
Representatives of Jordan and the Quartet – the US, EU, UN and Russia – did not participate in Saturday’s talks between Erekat and Molcho, the official noted.
He said that PA President Mahmoud Abbas is now in the process of seeking international assistance in exerting pressure on Israel to freeze construction in the settlements and east Jerusalem.
“Settlements will be at the core of the upcoming Palestinian diplomatic offensive because they undermine the foundations of the two-state solution,” the Palestinian official said.
Another PA official in Ramallah said that the US Administration and some EUgovernments were putting heavy pressure on Abbas to continue the talks with Israel after January 26.
The PA says that a three-month deadline set by the Quartet for both sides to reach agreement on resuming the direct peace talks ends on January 26.
However, American and European government officials have told Abbas that the Quartet ultimatum started only when the Israelis and Palestinians began their talks in Amman two weeks ago, the official added. “Now they are telling us that the deadline expires in March because that’s when the Amman talks began,” he said.
But Abbas Zaki, a senior Fatah official, announced Sunday that the Palestinians wouldn’t agree to hold further talks with Israel after January 26 “because the Israeli government is not serious about moving the peace process forward.”
Zaki claimed that the Israeli government was afraid of achieving progress with the Palestinians because of the upcoming general elections in Israel.
PLO, Israel to meet for fourth round of talks
BETHLEHEM — Palestinian and Israeli officials have agreed to meet for the fourth time on Jan. 25, after the latest round of talks between the two sides.
Israeli and PLO envoys met on Saturday for the third round of face-to-face meetings this year in the Jordanian capital. Neither side made official statements following the meeting between PLO member Saeb Erekat and Israel’s chief negotiator Yitzhak Molcho.
The Palestinian Authority’s official news agency Wafa said, however, that Erekat and Molcho had agreed to a fourth meeting on Jan. 25 in Amman.
Jordan’s foreign minister Nasser Judeh also attended the meeting.
The exploratory discussions began on Jan. 3 and followed a long break in negotiations after President Mahmoud Abbas suspended talks 15 months ago over Israel’s expansion of Jewish-only settlements in the occupied West Bank.
The “Quartet” of international peace mediators – the United States, Russia, the European Union and the United Nations wants the two sides to state their positions on the borders and security arrangements of a future “two-state solution” by Jan. 26 to help open the door to a resumption of full negotiations.
US officials have signaled that the Jan. 26 target date for the two sides to exchange proposals could slide.
The PLO entered the closed-door talks despite opposition from factions, who point to the failure of decades of negotiations with Israel alongside the expansion of illegal settlements.
By Naharnet Newsdesk/AFP
Palestinian and Israeli delegates met on Saturday in Jordan for a third “exploratory” meeting on the possibility of a resumption of peace talks, a Jordanian official said.
“The third meeting between the Palestinian delegate Saeb Erakat and Israel’s Yitzhak Molcho began on Saturday just after 8:00 pm (1800 GMT) in the presence of Jordan’s Foreign Minister Nasser Judeh,” the official told Agence France Presse.
Speaking on condition of anonymity, the official refused to disclose the location for the talks, saying only that the session was not held at the foreign ministry in Amman.
A Palestinian source said the meeting aimed to “explore a resumption of the negotiations that have been stalled since September 2010 over Israel’s refusal to stop settlements” building in the occupied West Bank and east Jerusalem.
“What the Israeli delegation has presented so far during these meetings is not conducive to a resumption of negotiations, and now the ball is in Israel’s court,” the Palestinian source added.
In the West Bank city of Ramallah earlier on Saturday, about 100 Palestinians protested against the meetings in Jordan.
“The Palestinian negotiators made a mistake in returning to the negotiating table on January 3 and 10, betting on the same process that failed for two decades,” the demonstrators said in a statement.
Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas has said he will press on with a campaign for full state membership at the United Nations despite the “exploratory” talks with Israel.
On Wednesday, Erakat said the two rounds of talks that had taken place in Amman would not be translated into full negotiations without a settlement freeze and clear parameters.
“The Amman talks are intended to obtain a settlement freeze and the use of the 1967 lines as a reference for any future talks, and will be given a chance to succeed until January 26,” he told AFP.
The talks are being held under the auspices of Jordan and the peacemaking Quartet, which has called on both sides to submit comprehensive proposals on borders and security by January 26.
“If the Amman talks under the auspices of Jordan and the Quartet do not succeed by the 26th then it will not be possible to resume negotiations with Israel,” Erakat added.