Positive talks between Israel and Palestine take place

Wednesday, January 4th, 2012 2:52:07 by

Israeli and Palestinian negotiators held a “positive” first face-to-face meeting in more than 15 months and agreed to meet again on Friday, but cautioned that full-blown talks were still some way off.

“The talks and atmosphere were positive,” Jordanian Foreign Minister Nasser Judeh told reporters after Tuesday’s talks in Amman between Israel’s chief negotiator Yitzhak Molcho, his Palestinian counterpart Saeb Erakat and Palestinian
negotiator Mohammed Shtayyeh.

Washington too welcomed what it described as a “positive development” after months of deadlock in peace talks over Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s refusal in 2010 to renew a freeze on most settlement construction in
the occupied West Bank.

Judeh, who hosted the meeting in the Jordanian capital, voiced cautious optimism. “The two sides expressed their commitment to a two-state solution. We do not want to raise the level of expectations, but at the same time we do
not want to minimise the importance of this meeting,” he said.

“The Palestinians submitted a paper on borders and security. The Israeli side received it, promising to study it and respond,” he said.

A Palestinian official close to the talks told AFP that “the meeting on Tuesday brought nothing new because the Israeli delegation did not bring up any new element during the discussions.” But “we agreed to have a second meeting
on Friday in Amman under the auspices of the Quartet and in the presence of Jordan,” he said, on condition of anonymity.

He was referring to the international Middle East Quartet that includes the European Union, Russia, the United Nations and the United States.

Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas had earlier said that the Palestinians were looking to find “the right foundation” to resume talks with Israel.

“We hope Jordanian efforts work,” he was quoted as saying by Jordan’s state-run Petra news agency.

European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton urged Israel and the Palestinians to press ahead with peace efforts on the heels of their “promising” talks in Jordan.

Thanking the Jordanian authorities for facilitating the ground-breaking face-to-face, 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.”

The EU remains fully committed to do all it can to contribute to the resolution of the conflict,” she added in a statement. Earlier this week, Israeli cabinet minister Dan Meridor said the fact that a meeting was taking place was
“a positive development” but that it did not in itself constitute a return to direct talks.

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