Barak meets Abbas in Amman on eve of peace talks in US

Defense minister, PA president discuss easing security conditions in West Bank as confidence building measure.

abbas barak duo 311 ap (photo credit: Associated Press)
abbas barak duo 311 ap
(photo credit: Associated Press)
On the eve of Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu's departure for Washington to relaunch peace negotiations with the Palestinians, Defense Minister Ehud Barak secretly met with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas in Amman on Monday night after having met Jordanian King Abdullah at his palace on Sunday.
After his meeting with King Abdullah, Barak returned to Israel to update the prime minister on their conversation before returning to Amman to meet Abbas.
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Barak and Abbas discussed the further easing of security conditions for Palestinians in the West Bank as a confidence building measure as peace talks are renewed.
In his Sunday meeting with Abdullah, Barak said that Jordan holds a central position in the search for regional peace and in aiding Israel and the Palestinians to reach an agreement. The defense minister added that peace is a strategic goal for Israel and that Israel expects the Palestinians will arrive in Washington with an open heart to negotiations.
King Abdullah emphasized that the engagement in negotiations must be serious and honest in order to give as quick a resolution as possible to all the central issues which separate the parties. Abdullah added that regional peace will start with the achievement of a solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. "This would give a real guarantee to regional security and stability," said Abdullah. "Achieving peace in the Middle East is a regional and international strategic interest. Everyone should therefore exert their influence and make every effort in order to make negotiations succeed as fast as possible."
 Netanyahu was scheduled to leave on Tuesday morning for the talks. He will meet with US President Barack Obama on Wednesday, before attending a dinner hosted by Obama with PA President Mahmoud Abbas, Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, Jordanian King Abdullah and Quartet envoy Tony Blair. He is expected to hold separate talks with each of the other leaders as well.
On Thursday morning, Netanyahu and Abbas will launch the talks in the presence of US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton at the State Department.
This ceremony will be followed by the first working meeting between Netanyahu and Abbas, and their respective teams.