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PLO to meet Israeli, Quartet envoys in Amman

Jan. 3, 2012 11:45 A.M. (Updated: Jan. 15, 2012 3:31 P.M.)
AMMAN (Reuters) -- Israeli and Palestinian envoys meet in Jordan on Tuesday alongside international mediators trying to revive their stalled peace talks, but neither side is raising hopes they can end more than a year of deadlock.

Negotiations stalled in late 2010 after Israel refused to renew a partial freeze on Jewish settlement in the occupied West Bank, which officials say threaten a viable Palestinian state.

PLO official and talks delegate Saeb Erekat on Tuesday called on Israel to "seize this opportunity to stop all settlement construction, accept the two-state solution on the 1967 border, and release Palestinian prisoners, in order to have the conducive environment called for under the Quartet Statement ... for meaningful and credible talks."

The meeting is "part of ongoing Jordanian efforts to compel Israel to comply with its international legal obligations and those under the Quartet Road Map," he added.

Jordanian Foreign Minister Nasser Judeh said the aim of the meeting is "to bring (the sides) together and try to push for a breakthrough in the peace talks to arrive at addressing the final status issues, starting with borders and security," according to The Jordan Times.

Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri called on the Palestinian Authority to boycott Tuesday's meeting, saying it was "repeating a policy of failure."

"The only beneficiary (of the summit) will be the Israeli occupation," he said, in remarks echoed by leftist faction PFLP.

Both Palestinian and Israeli officials have downplayed the meeting, which was called by the Quartet of Middle East mediators -- the United States, the European Union, Russia and the United Nations.

A senior PLO figure said Israel and the Palestinians were simply fulfilling a request by the Quartet to present their positions on the issues of security and borders.

"This is not a resumption of negotiations," Wasl Abu Yossef told Reuters in Ramallah.

"We should not impose on this meeting a heavy load," Erekat said. "I do not know if the Israeli side is bringing anything new, or if they are willing to put their position on the table".

"The only way to reach an agreement is through talks," Israeli cabinet minister Dan Meridor said. "There is an opening to renew negotiations... We must hope that things will work out but it does not depend only on us."

A diplomat in Amman also said Tuesday's meeting was not expected to lead to a breakthrough. "To be realistic, it won't solve anything, (although) it could give new energy" to the process, the diplomat said.

The talks at the Jordanian Foreign Ministry bring together Erekat, Israel's Yitzhak Molcho and representatives of the Quartet.

A ministry spokesman said earlier this week that the meeting aimed at reaching common ground to allow a resumption of direct talks between Israel the Palestinians, with the goal of reaching a peace accord by the end of this year.

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton also urged both sides to "take advantage of this opportunity.

"The need for a lasting peace is more urgent than ever. The status quo is not sustainable and the parties must act boldly to advance the cause of peace," Clinton said.

Established a decade ago, the Quartet has in recent months taken a leading role in attempts to broker new negotiations, stepping in after US President Barack Obama's administration failed to revive diplomacy.

The Quartet negotiators, led by former British premier Tony Blair, are pressing for results after they sought to relaunch talks when President Abbas submitted Palestine's bid for full membership of the negotiations on Sep. 23.

The framework proposed by the Quartet set out a return to direct talks within a month, and "comprehensive proposals ... on territory and security," by late January 2012.

Ma'an staff contributed to this report
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