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Israeli, Palestinian officials to meet in Jordan

By Guy Azriel, CNN
January 2, 2012 -- Updated 1438 GMT (2238 HKT)
Palestinian peace negotiator Saeb Erakat and his Israeli counterpart plan to resume peace talks on Tuesday.
Palestinian peace negotiator Saeb Erakat and his Israeli counterpart plan to resume peace talks on Tuesday.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Jordan is hosting the meeting in an effort to relaunch stalled peace talks
  • The talks fell apart more than a year ago over Israeli settlements in the West Bank
  • Negotiators from both sides will meet with representatives from the Middle East Quartet

Jerusalem (CNN) -- Israeli and Palestinian representatives will meet in Amman, Jordan, on Tuesday in an effort to relaunch negotiations between the two sides after more than a year of deadlock, Jordanian state media reported.

"Jordan's efforts are based on the belief that the two-state solution, which leads to the establishment of an independent and sovereign Palestinian national state, is a top Jordanian interest," a spokesman for the Jordanian Foreign Ministry said, the country's state-run Petra news agency said Sunday.

Yoaz Hendel, chief media adviser to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, thanked Jordanian officials in a statement Sunday "for their efforts to bring the two sides together under the outline of international quartet."

Chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erakat also expressed his appreciation to Jordan's King Abdullah for his role in the breakthrough.

"This invitation is part of ongoing Jordanian efforts to compel Israel to comply with its international legal obligations and those under the Quartet road map, specifically its obligation to freeze all settlement construction in all the occupied Palestinian territory, including occupied East Jerusalem," Erakat said in a statement.

Netanyahu's special envoy, attorney Yitzhak Molcho, and Erakat will meet with representatives of the Middle East Quartet -- made up of the United States, the European Union, the United Nations and Russia.

"We are hopeful that this direct exchange can help move us forward on the pathway proposed by the Quartet," U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said in a statement Sunday night. "As the president and I have said before, the need for a lasting peace is more urgent than ever. The status quo is not sustainable and the parties must act boldly to advance the cause of peace."

Peace talks between the two sides fell apart more than a year ago over disagreements on the issue of Israeli settlements in the West Bank.

In September, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas made a bid for the United Nations to recognize a Palestinian state, a move Israel called premature without direct talks that address its long-standing security concerns.

Erakat called upon Israel to "seize this opportunity to stop all settlement construction, accept the two-state solution on the 1967 border, and release Palestinian prisoners, in order to have the conducive environment called for under the Quartet statement of 23 September 2011, for meaningful and credible talks."

Netanyahu's spokesman, Mark Regev, told CNN Sunday: "We have said so before and will say this again, we are ready for immediate resumptions of peace talks without preconditions."

Filling the vacuum left open by the removal of Egypt's former President Hosni Mubarak, Jordan's King Abdullah has taken a more active role in trying to bridge the gulf between Israelis and Palestinians. Last month, King Abdullah made a rare visit to the Palestinian political capitol of Ramallah in the West Bank followed by a meeting in Amman a week later with Israeli President Shimon Peres.

While both sides thanked the Jordanian government for its role in bringing about the meeting, few are expecting any serious breakthroughs.

Speaking to Voice of Palestine radio, Erakat said the meeting would not constitute the resumption of negotiations, but rather is one that could lead to the resumption of negotiations.

Former Quartet participant and American diplomat Robert Danin wrote Sunday for the Council on Foreign Relations that while the resumption of contacts between the two sides would be a positive development, it "inadvertently makes the situation on the ground riskier."

"Abbas is returning to talks without attaining his long-standing demand that negotiations resume with an Israeli settlement freeze," Danin wrote. "Unless he can demonstrate quickly that talks produce tangible benefits for the Palestinians, he will feel compelled to break them off."

This, Danin says, could add more impetus to Abbas concluding ongoing talks with Hamas about forming a Palestinian unity government -- an idea vehemently opposed by Israel and the United States, which both consider the Islamist group a terrorist organization.

Israeli government spokesman Regev told CNN last week that "If Mahmoud Abbas walks toward Hamas, he is walking away from peace."

CNN's Kevin Flower contributed to this report.

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