Peace talks to continue in Jordan next week

Palestinian Authority chief negotiator Saeb Erekat explains the Palestinian position on peace with Israel to Jewish students in Jerusalem in December 2010. (Flash 90)

JERUSALEM (JWN and agencies)—Yesterday’s historic resumption of Israeli-Palestinian peace talks after a 15-month break has already yielded a result. The talks are to continue next week in Amman.

The decision to continue the tentative negotiations was reached at a final, three-hour session between Palestinian Authority chief negotiator Saeb Erekat and Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s envoy, Yitzhak Molcho.

Jordanian Foreign Minister Nasser Judeh, who hosted the meeting at the initiative of King Abdullah, said the first face-to-face Israeli-Palestinian meeting in more than 15 months had been “positive.”

Judeh told reporters after the meeting that it had covered all the core issues of a future peace deal. He said “the Palestinian side presented its positions concerning borders and security and the Israeli side heard them and promised to go over them in the next few days.”

The Jordanian foreign minister confirmed reports that meetings would continue over the coming days, some of which would be secret.

The Palestinian Authority’s positions on borders and security arrangements were given to Molcho in two documents. This is the first time an Israeli representative has received Palestinian documents concerning the final borders of a future Palestinian state.

Molho gave copies of the points Israel considers essential in a future agreement to Erekat, a representative of the Quartet, and Judeh. He then announced that Israel would respond to the Palestinian documents on borders and security arrangements.

A reaction followed swiftly from Washington. State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland welcomed the resumption of talks. “What’s most important is that these parties are talking. We want to see what the results are before we get ourselves too formalistic here”, she said. The US, she said, is “seeking to have them meet face to face, and we were encouraging them to make concrete proposals to each other.”

“What we want to see is where the parties came out after this round. We are very grateful to Jordan and particularly to Foreign Minister Judeh for bringing the parties together not only to meet with the Quartet envoys as they have been doing, but also to meet with each other in a face-to-face meeting,” Nuland added.

Nuland also took a jab at Israel’s settlement policy, saying: “You know where we’ve been on settlement activity. You know where we’ve been on housing activity in Jerusalem. None of this is helpful. None of it contributes to peace. That said, the best way to end up with borders that are agreed and understood is for these parties to talk to each other and to come up with a settlement together.”

Nuland failed, however, to express any indignation about how one partner in the Palestinian Authority unity government denies Israel’s right to exist and has sworn to destroy it. Hamas, while supposedly willing to join with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, called the Israeli-Palestinian meeting a “farce” and a “waste of time.”

The talks in Jordan on Tuesday “contradict the hopes and aspirations of our people,” said Fawzi Barhoom, a spokesman for the Islamist terrorist organization, which rules the Gaza Strip after taking it by force in a coup against Fatah.

Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri said the Islamist movement was “astonished” that Erekat handed Molho Palestinian proposals on borders and security.

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