Rift persists as Palestinians, Israel meet in Jordan

Rift persists as Palestinians, Israel meet in Jordan

The discrepancy between the attitudes of the Palestinians and Israel "persisted" in a new round of talks held under Jordan's auspices in Amman Monday, a Jordanian official said, dpa reported.

"A frank discussion" prevailed during the meeting between chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat and the Israeli envoy Yitzhak Molcho, Jordan's Foreign Ministry spokesman Mohammad Kayed said.

The meeting was also attended by Jordanian Foreign Minister Nasser Judeh, Kayed said, Kayed told the official Petra news agency.

"However, the rift remained, as expected, between attitudes of the two parties during their discussion of important issues," he was quoted as saying.

Kayed said that the meetings would continue with a view to arriving at "a common ground that bridges the gap" between their positions.

Earlier, a Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) official told dpa that the Palestinians expected little from the Israelis.

The Palestinian position on Israeli settlement activity remained the same, he added, reiterating that Israel must freeze construction in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem, before serious negotiations could take place.

If no serious process was underway by a January 26 deadline, the Palestinians would change tactics and look into other options, the official reiterated.

It is the second Jordanian-sponsored meeting, after Israel and the Palestinians held their first direct talks in nearly 16 months on Tuesday.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's envoy, Yitzhak Molcho, was expected to submit Israel's reply to a paper outlining the Palestinian position on two negotiating issues: borders and security.

Chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat submitted the Palestinian position to Molcho in last week's meeting.

Israel's ultra-right foreign minister, Avigdor Lieberman, charged Monday that the Palestinians were not interested in negotiations and that their real goal was to blame Israel for the failure of talks.

"The Palestinians came to the negotiations in Amman because they couldn't say 'no' to the King of Jordan. It isn't possible to reach a breakthrough with the Palestinians in the foreseeable future, because they aren't interested in one," Israeli media quoted him as telling a parliamentary committee in Jerusalem.

Netanyahu's spokesman, Mark Regev, would not comment on the content of Monday's parley.

"If these talks are to succeed, they must be conducted in total discretion and accordingly we are not giving out any details," he told dpa.

State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said the US welcomed Jordan's role in the unexpected new talks.

"We are encouraged that they are both coming to the table, that they're talking directly," she told reporters in Washington on Thursday.

"What the Quartet has tried to do, what the United States has tried to do, what the Jordanian government is trying to do is provide a positive environment for them to work in," she said.

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