Israeli, Palestinian Negotiators Meet to Try to Restart Peace Talks

Posted January 3rd, 2012 at 12:25 pm (UTC-5)
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Israeli and Palestinian peace negotiators have entered their first official meeting in 15 months to try to resume the stalled Mideast peace process.

Jordanian officials say Israeli negotiator Yitzhak Molho and his Palestinian counterpart Saeb Erekat met Tuesday in Amman, in the presence of diplomats from Jordan and the Quartet of Middle East peace mediators.

It is the first known contact between the two sides since peace talks broke down in September 2010 over a dispute about Israeli settlement construction on occupied land.

Israeli and Palestinian officials have said Tuesday's meeting does not represent a formal resumption of negotiations but could improve the atmosphere for future talks.

Ahead of the meeting, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas reiterated his position that Israel must accept two demands before peace talks resume.

Mr. Abbas said Israel should stop all settlement construction in the West Bank and East Jerusalem — territories captured by Israel in a 1967 war. Mr. Abbas also called for Israel to accept its pre-1967 boundaries as the basis of a border with a future Palestinian state.

Israel has said new peace talks should not have preconditions. Mr. Abbas said his West Bank-based government is considering new strategies if peace talks do not resume by January 26. He described the potential measures as difficult but did not elaborate.

The Quartet of U.S., EU, Russian and U.N. mediators had set January 26 as a target for Israel and the Palestinians to submit detailed proposals on future borders and security arrangements under a peace deal.

Gershon Baskin, co-director of the Israel Palestine Center for Research and Information in Jerusalem, told VOA that after more than a year of not talking, having representatives from the two sides in the same room is a positive development.

“While expectations are very low, and it seems very unlikely that there actually will be concrete results today, the fact that they are beginning something leaves a little crack in the door for some hope.”