Sunday, January 29, 2012

Report: Blair to meet with Palestinian, Israeli officials

Tony Blair pictured speaking in Bethlehem in 2010.(MaanImages/file)

JERUSALEM (Ma’an) -- Middle East Quartet envoy Tony Blair is set to talk with Palestinian and Israeli officials on Sunday in order to boost floundering peace negotiations.

Sources within the Quartet, who preferred not to be identified, said that Blair has already discussed a series of trust-building procedures with Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu to encourage the Palestinian Authority to resume talks in Amman, Italian news agency AKI reported Sunday.

The release of Palestinian prisoners detained before the Oslo Accords is one such measure to be discussed, the sources said.

PLO officials held five exploratory meetings with Israeli representatives in the Jordanian capital during January. The diplomatic Quartet -- Russia, UN, US and European Union negotiators -- had called for the sides to give their positions on borders and security by Jan. 26.

The PLO said it had done so in early January, and received only a verbal presentation by the Israeli delegate in return. The Israeli presentation "killed the two-state solution, set aside previous agreements and international law," a PLO official told Reuters after the meeting.

The Quartet aims to reach a peace deal by the end of this year.

The last round of direct negotiations collapsed within weeks in September 2010 when Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu refused to extend a partial freeze on settlement construction despite pleas and offers of incentives from Washington.

Abbas says the PLO's next move will be decided after consulting with an Arab League committee in Cairo on Feb. 4.


Maan News Agency