JERUSALEM, (AFP) – Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is to meet with Palestinian premier Salam Fayyad in coming weeks, Israeli and Palestinian officials said on Wednesday.
“Prime Minister Netanyahu will meet with Palestinian prime minister Fayyad,” Israeli premier’s spokesman Ofir Gendelman said in a statement posted on his official Twitter feed.
He initially said the meeting would take place next week, but later clarified that it would occur after the Jewish holiday of Passover, which begins at sundown on Friday and ends on April 13.
Palestinian officials confirmed the meeting and said Fayyad would hand Netanyahu a letter from Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas about the stalled peace process.
“A Palestinian delegation will take a letter to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu,” Nimr Hammad, an advisor to Abbas told AFP on Wednesday.
He said Fayyad would be joined by senior Palestinian official Yasser Abed Rabbo and negotiator Saeb Erakat.
Visiting US envoy David Hale was meeting Fayyad early on Wednesday evening and was scheduled to see Abbas later, Palestinian officials said.
Netanyahu’s office did not say if Hale would also meet the Israeli side during his current trip.
Gendelman said that Netanyahu would send his own letter to Abbas after the talks. “Prime minister’s envoy (Yitzhak) Molcho will deliver a letter from the prime minister to president Abbas following the meeting,” he wrote.
Direct talks between Israel and the Palestinians have been on hold since September 2010, but Jordan and the peacemaking Quartet sponsored several rounds of meetings between envoys from each sides in January.
Those talks, held in Amman, were intended to pave the way back to direct negotiations, but ended without agreement on how they might resume.
With the process stalled, Abbas has reportedly prepared a letter restating Palestinian terms for returning to negotiations and warning that the status quo risks rendering the Palestinian Authority useless.
Israeli newspaper Haaretz reported on Tuesday that the letter would not include any threats by Abbas to dismantle the Palestinian Authority, as had previously been reported.
But on Monday, the Palestinian leader said his message would contain a warning for the Israeli leader.
“You have made the Palestinian Authority a non-Authority. You have taken from it all its specialisations and commitments,” he said in Cairo, quoting from the letter.
Israel says it wants to return to the talks without preconditions, but the Palestinians want clear parameters for discussions and an Israeli settlement freeze before they resume negotiations.