Netanyahu, Abbas - AP - Sept 2 2010
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (right) and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. A determined prime minister who is willing to accept political risks can mobilize the necessary support. Photo by AP
Text size

Israeli and Palestinian envoys met for the third time in Amman overnight Sunday since Jordan began mediating a series of direct talks earlier this month.

The sides agreed to meet again on January 25, the official Palestinian Wafa news agency reported, a day before Palestinians were asked to decide whether to stop or continue the talks.

The Palestinian side was persuaded to enter into the Jordanian-led talks, despite the absence of an Israeli settlement freeze - until then a Palestinian precondition for direct negotiations with the government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

"It is up to Israel to decide if negotiations will happen or not. It's very easy. They just have to fulfil their international obligations ... including a full settlement freeze. The ball is on
their side, not ours," Xavier Abu Eid, a senior advisor to chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat, told dpa Sunday.

President Mahmoud Abbas told senior members of his Fatah party that "if we agree on a common ground, then we go to negotiations; but if the ground is not there, then what are we supposed to negotiate about? So far, there is no agreement on the ground."

Abbas' spokesman, Nabil Abu Rudeineh, was quoted in the semi-official daily al-Ayyam as saying that "January 26 remains a crossroad; we either make progress in these exploratory meetings or we will be forced to take decisions."

Israel disputes that deadline. It says the timeline for the two parties to submit proposals on borders and security set in September by the quartet of Middle East peace mediators - the United States, the European Union, Russia and the United Nations - actually began
with the start of the Amman talks on January 3.

Meanwhile, the U.S. State Department has urged both parties not to get fixated on dates.

"We don't want them, or anybody else, to get so fixated on the date that it chills the mood," said spokeswoman Victoria Nuland. "We want them to keep going on the hard work that they're doing together."