RAMALLAH, Palestinian Territories, (AFP) — The Palestinians ruled out any more talks about a resumption of Middle East peace negotiations Wednesday after a fifth meeting in Jordan produced “not one step” from Israel.
“Today’s meeting was the last and there will be no further exploratory talks with the Israeli side,” a senior Palestinian official told AFP, speaking on condition of anonymity.
“We can say that all these meetings have gone nowhere because Israel has moved not one step to enable a resumption of negotiations,” the official said after the meeting held under tight secrecy in Jordan.
The Jordanian hosts put a brave face on the outcome of the talks, saying they had been “frank and serious, despite the differences of position”.
“The coming days will be dedicated to assessing the results in consultation with the concerned parties,” Jordan’s official Petra news agency quoted Foreign Minister Nasser Jawdeh as saying.
Diplomatic efforts by the so-called Quartet made up of the European Union, Russia, the United Nations and the United States to jumpstart the moribund peace negotiations have intensified in recent days.
European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton is to meet Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas on Thursday and the United Nations announced that Secretary General Ban Ki-moon is to head to the Middle East next week.
Ahead of the Jordan talks, Abbas rephrased the Palestinians’ longstanding conditions for new talks.
“If we determine the borders, it is possible to return to negotiations, but the Israelis don’t want to determine the borders,” Abbas said in comments published by the Palestinians’ official Wafa news agency.
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.
There was no immediate Israeli response to Abbas’s remarks which were made just hours before Palestinian negotiators Saeb Erakat and Mohammed Shtayeh met Israel’s Yitzhak Molcho in Jordan.
The two negotiating teams have held four face-to-face meetings since January 3 to explore ways of returning to direct talks which broke down in late 2010.
But they have made little tangible progress, prompting Palestinian threats to halt the talks unless there are concrete signs of progress by Thursday.
The two sides do not even agree on that deadline, with Israel saying it considers the three-month target date set by the Quartet to have begun from the first round of exploratory talks on January 3.
The EU foreign policy chief renewed the bloc’s commitment to efforts to relaunch peace talks on a visit to Gaza earlier on Wednesday.
“I am a realist about where we are but I am a passionate believer that we need to keep talks going and increase the potential of these talks to become genuine negotiations,” Ashton told reporters in Gaza City.
“So we are looking to see what we can do to help, but at the end this is a discussion that needs to take place between the two sides.”
Before he met Ashton late Wednesday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu insisted he remained committed to renewed talks.
“We have been trying to make sure the talks between us and the Palestinians continue,” the Israeli premier said.
“This is our design and I look forward to discussing it with you to make sure this is what happens.”