Last updated: 26 January, 2012

EU’s Ashton to meet Palestinian leader Abbas

EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton was to hold talks with Palestinian leader Mahmud Abbas on Thursday morning, a day after the Palestinians declared all informal talks with Israel were over.

The meeting, which was to take place in Amman at 0930 GMT, was expected to be a last-ditch attempt to persuade the Palestinians not to abandon a series of exploratory talks with Israel over the possibility of renewing direct talks.

Ashton and Jordan’s King Abdullah II have been leading international efforts to shore up the fragile dialogue between the two sides ahead of the expiry today of a Quartet deadline for the two sides to present proposals on borders and security.

Negotiators from the two sides met late on Wednesday in Amman for their fifth meeting in just over three weeks, after which the Palestinians ruled out any further talks.

“Today’s meeting was the last and there will be no further exploratory talks with the Israeli side,” a senior Palestinian official told AFP after the talks.

“All these meetings have gone nowhere because Israel has moved not one step to enable a resumption of negotiations,” he said on condition of anonymity.

The exploratory talks had been intended to lead the parties back to direct talks in accordance with a timeline announced by the Quartet on October 26, which gave both sides three months to submit proposals on territory and security.

The deadline expires today.

The Palestinians say they have presented their proposals and accuse Israel of not reciprocating.

Following a meeting on Wednesday with Abdullah, Abbas appeared to soften his long-standing position on renewing direct talks with Israel — saying talks were possible if the Jewish state would agree on a formula for borders.

“If we determine the borders, it is possible to return to negotiations, but the Israelis don’t want to determine the borders,” he 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.