'Palestinians say fifth Amman meeting will be last'

Despite Quartet pressure, Palestinian officials tell Ma'an that talks with Israel will not continue, blame Israel for lack of progress.

Amman talks with Blair_311 (photo credit: Reuters)
Amman talks with Blair_311
(photo credit: Reuters)
Palestinian Authority officials said Wednesday that a fifth meeting between Israeli and Palestinian negotiators in Amman scheduled for later in the day would be the final meeting, Palestinian news agency Ma'an reported.
The PA has come under heavy pressure from the Quartet to continue the talks but will not agree to do so, Ma'an cited unnamed Palestinian sources as saying.
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PLO Executive Committee member Hanna Amirah blamed Israel for the Palestinian decision not to continue talks, saying that the Netanyahu government "does not seek at this stage to achieve any progress in the peace process with the Palestinian Authority," according to the report.
Meanwhile, Israeli officials said Tuesday they believe the Palestinians will continue the talks being held in Jordan beyond the January 26 Quartet deadline, which Israel contests. The Palestinians are unlikely to cut off talks, the officials said, because the move was not supported by European powers and other key international players.
The officials in Jerusalem spoke just hours before EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton arrived in Israel for two days of talks here and in the Palestinian Authority.
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.
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.
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.
Herb Keinon contributed to this report.