May 19, 2013
No breakthrough on Mideast peace, talks to go on
Israeli and Palestinian negotiators made no breakthrough during their first high-level discussions in more than a year on Tuesday, but agreed to hold further talks in Amman on a confidential basis, Jordan's foreign minister said.
Tuesday's talks were aimed at agreeing terms under which the two sides' leaders - Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu - could resume talks.
Negotiations foundered in late 2010 after Israel refused to renew a partial freeze on Jewish settlement in the occupied West Bank, as demanded by the Palestinians.
Nasser Judeh, who hosted the talks, reported no significant progress but added: "The important thing is the two sides have met face to face."
"We held today a serious discussion that aims at launching peace talks at the earliest possible opportunity over final status issues."
The Jordanian foreign minister added that from here on the sides would keep details of the meetings secret. That could boost the chances of progress by easing immediate pressure from Israeli or Palestinian public opinion not to make concessions.
The Palestinians say they cannot hold talks while Israel cements its hold on land it captured in a 1967 war and on which they intend to establish an independent state. Israel says peacemaking should have no preconditions.
Abbas said before Tuesday's talks that Palestinians could take unilateral steps if Israel does not agree to halt settlement building in the occupied West Bank and recognise the borders of a future Palestinian state.
"If they don't ... there are measures that we could take. But we will not declare them now because they have not been finalised. But we will take measures that could be difficult," Abbas told a group of judges in Ramallah.
The Jewish state said in November it would accelerate settlement building activity the day after the Palestinians won recognition as a state by the U.N. cultural body UNESCO.
Judeh said the two sides had until Jan. 26 to make progress and that meetings would take place in Jordan "on a continual basis, without prior announcement of time and date."