Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu on Sunday was somewhat pessimistic about the prospects of future peace talks with the Palestinians, but expressed hope that exploratory talks between Israeli and Palestinian negotiators in Amman would act as a springboard for direct negotiations.

"The signs are not particularly good, but I hope they will rebound and we can make progress," Netanyahu stated at the opening of the weekly cabinet meeting.



He announced that UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon would be visiting Israel in the coming days to discuss the future of the peace process, as well as sanctions against Iran.

The prime minister stated that Israel was interested in continuing exploratory talks with the Palestinians with a view of moving towards "concrete negotiations." He was critical of the Palestinians, saying that, thus far, "they have refused to discuss with us our security needs."

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas said Saturday that “Israeli intransigence” was behind the failure of the January Israeli-Palestinian talks in Jordan.

Israel refused during the talks to present a “clear vision” regarding the issues of borders and security as demanded by the Quartet members – the US, EU, UN and Russia – Abbas said.

He made his remarks in Ramallah during a conversation with visiting Irish Foreign Minister Eamon Gilmore, who is expected to meet on Sunday with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman.

Abbas told Gilmore that the Palestinians remain committed to a “real and serious peace process that would end Israeli occupation” and lead to the establishment of an independent Palestinian state on all the territories captured in 1967, with east Jerusalem as its capital.

In January, Israeli and Palestinian envoys met in Amman for five rounds of preliminary talks, as set out under Quartet guidelines published in September. The preliminary talks had been scheduled to start in October and end on January 26. But they did not begin until this month.

The Palestinians have threatened to stick with the January 26 deadline and to walk away from the talks, because they failed to achieved any tangible results.

On Friday, the Obama administration urged Israelis and Palestinians to continue the Amman talks.

“Both the Jordanian hosts and we are very much encouraging the parties to come back to the table in relatively short order, after they’ve had a chance to consult,” State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said.

Khaled Abu Toameh, Hilary Leila Krieger and Tovah Lazaroff contributed to this report.

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