Abbas: Jordan Talks 'Revive Hopes' of Israeli-Palestinian Negotiations

Abbas' remarks come after an official confirms Israeli and Palestinian envoys clashed over the makeup of their delegations during their last meeting in Jordan.

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Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said Wednesday that Jordan-brokered talks with Israel had "revived hopes" of restarting direct Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations.

"The Palestinian-Israeli encounters were exploratory meetings and not negotiations," Abbas told reporters after discussions with Jordanian King Abdullah II that focused on the outcome of four rounds of Palestinian-Israeli talks in Amman since January 3.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas waves to the crowd during a celebration in the West Bank city of Ramallah, upon his return from the UN General Assembly in the U.S., September 25, 2011. Credit: Reuters

"The Jordanian move has revived hopes and put things on the right track so that Israel will have no pretext after that," he said.

Abbas said that he would "evaluate the situation with the king" in preparation for the February 4 meeting of the Arab follow-up committee to "decide the next step."

Abbas' remarks came after an official confirmed that Israeli and Palestinian envoys had clashed over the makeup of their delegations during their last meeting in Jordan.

Chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat refused to enter the room where the talks were held Saturday, because the Israelis had unexpectedly brought along a security expert, said the official, who is close to the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) Executive Committee.

Erekat, therefore, refused to hear the Israeli position on security in the presence of the expert, because that person was not an official member of the Israeli delegation and unauthorized to be there.

"They tried to introduce a security expert and it was not part of the exploratory talks," the official told DPA on condition of anonymity.

"We did not want to start any meeting with the presence of (people) who were not supposed to be in the meeting," he said.

The official said Israel had so far failed to submit its positions on the two negotiation issues of borders and security, despite an expectation it would do so in the second round of the Jordan talks.

The sides were scheduled to hold the fifth and final round of talks in Amman late Wednesday. An additional round planned for Monday - after Saturday's clash - did not take place.

Wednesday's scheduled parley comes a day before expiry of a deadline set by the Quartet: the United States, European Union, United Nations and Russia.

The Palestinians have warned they will not continue the talks after the January 26 deadline if Israel continues to refuse to freeze settlement activity.

The Palestinian Authority withdrew from the direct talks with Israel 16 months ago after the Israeli government declined to extend a 10-month moratorium on settlement construction in the Palestinian territories.

The exploratory talks hosted in Jordan were launched in early January in a last-minute bid to revive the peace process, before Palestinians step up their diplomatic campaign at the United Nations as an alternative to negotiations with Israel.

During Wednesday's meeting, King Abdullah briefed Abbas on the outcome of his visit last week to the United States, where he received President Barack Obama's backing for hosting the Palestinian-Israeli talks, according to a royal court statement.

"The monarch pledged that Jordan will continue to do whatever it can to ensure the availability of the climate that permits the relaunching of Palestinian-Israeli talks that tackle all final status issues in the run-up for the establishment of an independent Palestinian state on the 1967 lines," the statement read.

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