Amman talks with Blair_311.
(photo credit: Reuters)
Jerusalem believes the Palestinians will continue the low-level talks being held intermittently in Jordan beyond Thursday – a day they set as a deadline for the talks – because the international community is keen on seeing the negotiations continue, government officials said Tuesday.
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The officials spoke just hours before EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton arrived in Israel for two days of talks here and in the Palestinian Authority.
Analysis: Jordan takes center stage in Israel-PA talks
The Palestinians have threatened to walk away from the Jordanian-sponsored talks between Israeli negotiator Yitzhak Molcho and his Palestinian counterpart, Saeb Erekat, after January 26 unless Israel freezes settlement construction, agrees to pull back to the 1967 lines and releases high-profile Fatah prisoners.
Israeli officials, however, said the Palestinians were unlikely to carry out the threat because they were not getting any support from the EU and other key international players for ditching negotiations and returning to efforts to gain statehood recognition at the UN.
Ashton, before arriving Tuesday and meeting separately with Defense Minister Ehud Barak, President Shimon Peres and PA Prime Minister Salam Fayyad, said she would “make every effort to push the peace talks and encourage the parties in the path towards a negotiated solution.”
Ashton expressed support for the Jordanian-sponsored talks and said the fact the sides were talking “face to face” was encouraging.
“I’ll be looking for positive signs from both sides that they are prepared to turn this progress into real gestures and negotiations,” she said.
While Ashton was expected to encourage the Palestinians to remain at the table with Israel, she was also expected to press Israel to make “gestures” toward PA President Mahmoud Abbas.
Among the gestures numerous European leaders have asked Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu to take in recent months include the release of some high-profile Fatah prisoners, and transferring wider swaths of the West Bank to full PA control.
Ashton is scheduled to visit Gaza Wednesday morning, but not meet Hamas officials there. Rather, she will visit the UNRWA operated Gaza Training Center, and – according to a statement from her office – “meet representatives of civil society.” The EU’s policy is that it will not engage with Hamas until that organization renounces terrorism, recognizes Israel and accepts previous Israeli-Palestinian agreements.
Barak, in an Israel Radio interview, said that in addition to those requirements, Israel would only engage with the organization if it also dismantled the terrorist infrastructure in Gaza that includes “8,000 to 9,000 rockets” able to reach the outskirts of Gush Dan.
Following her visit to Gaza, Ashton is scheduled to go to Jerusalem for meetings with Netanyahu and Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman. On Thursday she is schedule to meet Abbas.