New M-E talks plan positive, says Israel
AFP JERUSALEM A TOP Israeli cabinet minister on Monday said that a planned meeting with Palestinian negotiators after a near 16-month pause was a positive step but should not be seen as renewal of negotiations.
“This is a positive development,” Intelligence Minister and Deputy Prime Minister Dan Meridor told Israeli 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.” Jordanian Foreign Minister Nasser Judeh will on Tuesday host Israel’s chief negotiator Yitzhak Molcho and his Palestinian counterpart Saeb Erakat for talks which will also be attended by representatives of the international Quartet of peacemakers. Meridor said the meeting, which is to take place in Amman, 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. The Palestinians also stressed the same point. “This meeting will be devoted to discussing the possibility of making a breakthrough that could lead to the resumption of negotiations,” Erakat told Voice of Palestine radio. “Therefore, it will not mark the resumption of negotiations,” he said, reiterating the Palestinian mantra that there would be no talks without a halt to settlement activity.