Israeli and Palestinian negotiators meet, but expectations are low

Laura Rozen
The Envoy

Israeli and Palestinian negotiators are meeting in Jordan Tuesday for the first face-to-face talks in stalled peace negotiations in months--but few parties involved in the negotiations are expecting any meaningful progress.

Israeli negotiator Yitzhak Molcho and Palestinian negotiator Saab Erekat are slated to hold two sets of meetings in Amman Tuesday. One discussion will take place with representatives of the so-called Middle East Quartet, consisting of the United States, Russia, the European Union and the United Nations. The other gathering will be mediated by Jordanian Foreign Minister Nasser Judeh.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton--who hosted the last round of face-to-face Israeli-Palestinian talks more than a year ago in Washington--urged the parties to take advantage of the Jordanian mediation in order to resume a more sustained negotiations.

"I applaud the efforts of the [Jordanian] King and Foreign Minister Judeh to bring the parties together and encourage them to approach these meetings constructively," Clinton said in a press statement Sunday. "We knew that progress toward this goal would not be easy so it is essential that both sides take advantage of this opportunity. We are hopeful that this direct exchange can help move us forward on the pathway proposed by the Quartet."

But neither the hosts nor the parties expressed much optimism the Amman meetings would lead to a breakthrough in the deadlocked peace process.

"We should not impose on this meeting a heavy load," Palestinian negotiator Erekat explained in a Reuters report Tuesday. "I do not know if the Israeli side is bringing anything new, or if they are willing to put their position on the table."

"To be realistic, it won't solve anything, (although) it could give new energy" to the process, an unnamed Jordanian Foreign Ministry official told Reuters.

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