Negotiators from the Palestinians and Israelis are set to meet directly with representatives from the Mideast Quartet on Tuesday, the first such interaction since the Palestinians suspended peace talks in the second half of 2010. Despite the significance of the conversation, the meeting does not apparently mark the true resumption of peace talks—just a step towards them. The discussion between the sides will take place in Amman under the auspices of the Jordanian government.
The Quartet— consisting of the United States, the European Union, Russia and the United Nations—has been trying to restart peace talks for months, with the forthcoming meeting the largest breakthrough to date. The Quartet has called for the sides to present proposals on borders as part of the process, with the goal to have an agreement by the end of the year.
Jordan’s Petra news agency reported that the Jordanians will host the sides in one meeting with the Quartet and then again without the world powers.
“This aims at reaching a common ground to resume direct talks between the two sides and to achieve a Palestinian-Israeli peace accord that embodies the two-state solution and addresses all final status issues by the end of 2012,” Jordanian Foreign Ministry spokesman Muhammad Al-Kayed was quoted as saying.
The set-up by the Jordanians follows separate meetings between King Abdullah II of Jordan with Israeli President Shimon Peres and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.
Talks between the sides were suspended by the Palestinians in 2010 following the end of Israel’s unprecedented 10-month settlement construction freeze. The Palestinians have since demanded that Israel again halt settlement building and make concessions on borders prior to the resumption of peace negotiations.
Despite the latest breakthrough on a direct meeting between the sides thanks to the Jordanian efforts, the Palestinians are still calling for the Israelis to take the steps. Chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat was quoted by the WAFA Palestinian news agency as saying that the meeting in Jordan is an “opportunity” for the Israelis to meet the Palestinian demands to set the environment for peace talks. The Israeli news website Ynet reported that Erekat told them the meeting “does not constitute a return to negotiations.”
The Israelis, which have long been calling for peace talks to resume, were thankful for the effort by the Jordanians. Israeli National Information Directorate head Dr. Yoaz Hendel said in a statement from the Prime Minister’s Office, “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.”
(By Joshua Spurlock, www.themideastupdate.com, January 1, 2012)