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Lieberman dismisses Palestinian motives in Amman talks

Jan. 9, 2012 5:31 A.M. (Updated: Jan. 11, 2012 10:48 A.M.)
JERUSALEM (Reuters) -- Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman dismissed newly rekindled diplomatic contacts with Palestinian officials on Monday, accusing them of poor faith in peacemaking.

Lieberman, a hardline coalition partner to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu who is often sidelined in statecraft, told lawmakers in Jerusalem that Palestinians only agreed to resume contacts after being "dragged against their will" to Amman.

"They are preparing a groundwork of excuses to shift responsibility for the talks' failure to Israel," Lieberman said, according to an official transcript of the parliamentary briefing.

PLO delegates are due to meet representatives of the Israeli government in the Jordanian capital later on Monday, in the second such talks since last week, called by the international Quartet.

Senior presidential adviser Yasser Abed Rabbo said Lieberman's assessment was not shared by other parties to the talks.

"All sides in the Quartet and our brothers in Jordan see a complete seriousness from the Palestinian side, and an Israeli attempt to turn these negotiations into a waste of time, with an intensified campaign of settlement-building," he told Reuters in Ramallah.

Last Tuesday's meeting in Amman was the first since direct talks stalled in late 2010, when Israel refused to renew a partial freeze on building settlements on occupied Palestinian land.

The Jordanian-hosted meeting was attended by the so-called Quartet of peace brokers -- the United States, European Union, Russia and United Nations -- who on Oct. 26 gave the sides three months to submit their proposals on territory and security.

In Amman, a regional diplomatic source described the second round of talks, held behind closed doors, as a chance to assess longer-term prospects.

"This is even more important" than the introductory meeting, the source said. "We have to see the follow-up, and what comes now."

Lieberman said that Palestinian officials, who applied directly for full UN membership in September 2011, drawing the ire of Israel and the US, planned to resume this "internationalisation" campaign after Jan. 26, the target date set by the Quartet.

"Whoever talks about a 'breakthrough' with the Palestinians is clueless," he said, according to the transcript. "The key word is 'management' of the conflict with the Palestinians."

Abed Rabbo told Reuters: "We will turn to the international community, and the UN Security Council in any event, not only to condemn settlement construction but to demand direct international intervention to protect the two-state solution."

A Netanyahu spokesman had no immediate reaction to Lieberman's remarks.
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