Tuesday, 28 March, 2023

Israel-Palestine talks begin in Jordan

AMMAN: Israeli and Palestinian representatives were holding talks in Jordan on Sunday, state media in the kingdom said, with the "political-security" meeting aiming to restore calm after deadly violence, reports AFP.

Jordanian state broadcaster Al-Mamlaka said the meeting, which kicked off in the Red Sea resort of Aqaba, was "the first of its kind in years between Palestinians and Israelis with regional and international participation" and would address "the situation in the Palestinian territories".

Sources with knowledge of the meeting said Palestinian intelligence chief Majed Faraj and the head of Israel's Shin Bet domestic security agency Ronen Bar were set to be in attendance.

US National Security Council coordinator for the Middle East and North Africa Brett McGurk, as well as Jordanian and Egyptian security officials were also expected to be present, the sources added on condition of anonymity as they were not authorised to speak to the media.

The meeting comes amid international concerns over intensifying unrest between Israel and the Palestinians.

A Jordanian government official had told AFP on Saturday that the meeting aimed at "building trust" between Israel and the Palestinians.

"The political-security meeting is part of stepped up ongoing efforts by Jordan in coordination with the Palestinian Authority and other parties to end unilateral measures (by Israel) and a security breakdown that could fuel more violence," the official had said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

The talks aim to agree "security and economic measures to ease the hardships of the Palestinian people," the official added.

In late December, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu returned to power at the head of a coalition government regarded as the most right-wing in Israel's history.

The veteran hawk has handed key West Bank powers to far-right ministers.

News of the Palestinian leadership's decision to attend the Jordan meeting drew criticism from other factions, just days after 11 Palestinians were killed in a gun battle when Israeli troops raided the occupied West Bank city of Nablus.

The death toll in Wednesday's raid was the highest since the second Palestinian intifada, or uprising, ended in 2005, the year the United Nations started tracking casualties.

"The decision to take part in the Aqaba meeting despite the pain and massacres being endured by the Palestinian people comes from a desire to bring an end to the bloodshed," the ruling Fatah movement of president Mahmud Abbas had said on Twitter.

Islamist group Hamas, which controls the Gaza Strip, slammed the Palestinian Authority's participation.

The meeting is "a blatant attempt to cover up ongoing (Israeli) occupation crimes, and a green light for it to carry out violations against our people and land and holy sites", Hamas said in a statement.