Gaza premier, Israel play down talks
TUNIS-JERUSALEMThe prime minister of the Gaza government said Thursday the first meeting between Israeli and Palestinian peace negotiators in more than a year was “a futile gesture” that will lead nowhere.
Ismail Haniyeh of the Palestinian faction Hamas received a hero’s welcome at Tunisia’s airport where he was greeted by thousands of people chanting their support for the Palestinian cause. He also met with Tunisia’s new prime minister, Hamadi Jebali. “We are not optimistic. It is a futile gesture which will lead nowhere,” Haniyeh said regarding Tuesday’s Israeli-Palestinian talks in Jordan. The meeting ended without any significant breakthroughs, and Israel and the Palestinians remain far from agreement on key issues to resolve their decades-long conflict. But the talks are to continue. Haniyeh is on an official tour of the Muslim world, his first trip outside the blockaded territory since the Islamist group took over Gaza in 2007.
Meanwhile, Israeli Defence Minister Ehud Barak said on the same day that Israeli and Palestinian negotiators exchanged position papers at a meeting this week, but neither side held out the promise of a breakthrough. The talks in the Jordanian capital Amman between Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erakat and Israeli envoy Yitzhak Molcho were the first direct discussions between the sides in more than 15 months. They will reconvene in Amman on Jan. 9, the U.S. State Department said.
Compiled from AFP and Reuters stories by the Daily News staff.