Last-ditch effort for talks as Palestinian hopes fade

Last-ditch effort for talks as Palestinian hopes fade

Last-ditch effort for talks as Palestinian hopes fade

Palestinian President Abbas and EU’s Foreign Policy Chief Ashton meet in Amman yesterday a day after the Palestinians declared they were ending all informal talks. AFP photo

Informal dialogue between Israelis and Palestinians is not at a dead end, EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton said yesterday, a day after the Palestinians declared they were ceasing all informal talks with Israel without any breakthrough.

“I don’t think there’s an impasse,” Ashton told reporters following talks with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in the Jordanian capital, Amman. “Abbas is ‘thinking carefully’ about his next moves in the dialogue that began in Jordan earlier this month,” Ashton said. Abbas said Jan. 25 that the talks had stopped and that he would consult with Arab allies Feb. 4 next week to determine how to proceed. “All these meetings have gone nowhere because Israel has moved not one step to enable a resumption of negotiations,” a senior Palestinian official said on condition of anonymity. Ashton also said that after meeting with Israelis in the past few days, she remained hopeful that “with goodwill, they can continue to talk.” She said Abbas hoped Israel would make gestures on halting settlement construction and demarcating the border for a future Palestinian state as incentives to restart dialogue. A day before meeting with Ashton, Abbas said, “If we demarcate the borders, we can return to negotiations, but Israel does not want to do that,” after talks in Jordan with Jordan’s King Abdullah II on Jan. 25.

Deadline expired

The exploratory talks had been intended to lead the parties back to direct talks in accordance with a timeline announced by the Middle East Quartet on Oct. 26, which gave both sides three months to submit proposals on territory and security. The deadline expired yesterday. U.N. chief Ban Ki-moon also announced Jan. 25 that he would travel to the Middle East next week to try to encourage the both sides to resume talks. The secretary-general told reporters that he would visit Jordan, Israel and the Palestinian territories in the hopes of creating “a positive atmosphere for moving forward.”

Until now, the Palestinians have said they will agree to return to the negotiating table only if Israel agrees to freeze settlement construction and if it accepts the lines that existed before the 1967 Six-Day War as the basis for discussions on future borders.

Israeli officials refused to discuss the content of Jan. 25 night’s discussions between Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Ashton, but Ofir Gendelman, a spokesman for Netanyahu, yesterday urged Abbas not to put an end to the talks. “Continuing the talks with the Palestinians is the only way to achieve a breakthrough. President Abbas must not put an end to these talks,” he said in his Twitter account.