January 2, 2012 by staff
Israel Palestine, Israeli and Palestinian negotiators headed to Jordan on Monday for their first face-to-face meeting in nearly 16 months, although both sides stressed it did not mark a renewal of talks.
Israel’s chief negotiator Yitzhak Molcho and his Palestinian counterpart Saeb Erakat were to sit down together on Tuesday on the shores of the Dead Sea at the invitation of Jordanian Foreign Minister Nasser Judeh.
Quartet envoy Tony Blair was also to attend the session, along with other officials of the diplomatic grouping, which represents the European Union, Russia, the United Nations and the United States.
“This is a positive development,” senior Israeli cabinet minister Dan Meridor told public radio.
“It is the first time in a long while that the Palestinians have been prepared to come and talk to us directly, without preconditions.”
Meridor, who holds the intelligence portfolio and is also deputy prime minister, said the meeting did not in itself constitute a return to direct talks, but expressed hope it would be a springboard which would “allow the Palestinians to return to negotiations.
“We were not asked to make declarations at the preliminary talks,” he said, indicating that only in the context of actual negotiations would Israel lay out its positions.
Earlier on Tuesday, Erakat made the same point in an interview with Voice of Palestine radio.
“This meeting will be devoted to discussing the possibility of making a breakthrough that could lead to the resumption of negotiations. Therefore, it will not mark the resumption of negotiations,” he said.
Speaking to reporters in Ramallah, Erakat urged Israel not to waste the rare opportunity of a face-to-face meeting.
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