Representatives from the Israelis and the Palestinians met in Jordan on Tuesday as part of a bid to jumpstart dormant peace talks between the sides. The direct meeting was the first in more than a year, although the Jordanians sought to keep expectations at an even-keel following the discussion. Afterwards in comments to reporters, Foreign Minister Nasser Judeh of Jordan described the meeting as positive.
He was quoted in a report on the press conference from the Jordanian Petra news agency as saying, “We do not want to raise the ceiling of expectations about the meeting and we also do not want to underestimate it.”
Judeh said the Palestinians presented their thoughts on two of the core issues in the conflict—borders and security—which the Israelis promised to study and provide their own views. Judeh said the sides have agreed to meet again and additional commitments will also be taken.
The sides were joined by representatives from the Mideast Quartet—the United States, the European Union, Russia and the United Nations. Judeh said the presence of the Quartet and contacts made by Jordan show the sides are serious.
On Tuesday, Israeli Prime Minister’s Office spokesman Mark Regev told The Mideast Update by phone that they were entering the discussions with the Palestinians with “great seriousness.”
Despite the positive language surrounding the meeting, the Israelis and Palestinians have not yet resumed actual peace talks. Judeh was quoted by Petra as saying of Tuesday’s meeting that the goal is to create an atmosphere conducive to returning to serious talks and that “the effort we are making is an exploratory effort until arriving to the resumption of direct negotiations.”
The WAFA Palestinian news agency reported that President Mahmoud Abbas again reiterated their preconditions on returning to peace talks: that Israel halt settlement construction and accept terms of reference for the negotiations. Traditionally that has meant calling upon Israel to accept the Palestinians’ general outline for borders.
Israel previously enacted a 10-month partial freeze on settlement construction starting in 2009, but the Palestinians did not agree to return to direct talks until the moratorium was nearing its end. After the 10-month freeze ended in 2010, the Palestinians suspended peace negotiations with Israel, which have yet to resume.
EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton added her voice to those wanting the current talks hosted by Jordan will lead to the sides returning to the negotiating table.
A statement released from Ashton said, “I encourage Israel and the Palestinians to build on this promising first meeting and continue to work toward a just, lasting and comprehensive peace in the Middle East.”
(By Joshua Spurlock, www.themideastupdate.com, January 3, 2011)