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Israelis, Palestinians To Meet In Jordan

Saeb Erekat, the Palestinian Authority's chief negotiator (November photo)
Israeli and Palestinian negotiators are scheduled to hold a face-to-face meeting today in Jordan to discuss the prospects for reviving peace talks that have been stalled for more than a year.

The meeting in Amman, bringing together Israeli negotiator Yitzhak Molcho and his Palestinian counterpart Saeb Erekat, will be held alongside a gathering of representatives of the so-called Quartet of Middle East mediators -- the European Union, Russia, the United Nations, and the United States.

The quartet’s envoy, former British Prime Minister Tony Blair, was expected to attend the session.

The meeting will not mark the start of formal negotiating sessions between the Israelis and Palestinians, and officials from all sides have sought to downplay expectations about any possible results.

"We believe now it is up to the Israeli government whether to choose the continuation of the petty politics, scoring points, finger-pointing, or to stand tall and take the right track," Palestinian negotiator Erekat said on January 2.

U.S.-backed peace talks between the Israelis and Palestinians broke down in September 2010.

"We really expect that the Palestinians will come without preconditions, and that in the meeting between Erekat and Molcho the chance to start negotiations will be clarified," Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak said. "The whole issue is very important for the state of Israel. I think it is very important for the Palestinians. It is very important to anyone who cares about the continuation of movement towards a two-state solution."

The Palestinians have said they will only resume negotiations when Israel freezes settlement construction in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. Israel says talks should resume without preconditions.

compiled from agency reports