Abbas to meet Israeli deputy PM
Published Thursday, June 28, 2012
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas will meet with Israeli Vice Premier Shaul Mofaz on Sunday, a Palestinian official said, in the highest-level meeting between the sides since peace talks broke down in 2010.
"There will be a meeting on Sunday between President Abbas and Mr. Mofaz. This comes after a request for a meeting from Mofaz," Chief Palestinian Negotiator Saeb Erekat told Voice of Palestine Radio on Thursday.
A spokesman for Mofaz would not confirm or deny that a meeting had been arranged, but he did say there was ongoing contact with Abbas' office toward setting up such an event.
Mofaz told reporters this month that he intended to meet Abbas "to examine ways to restart peace negotiations with the Palestinians".
However, few expect any progress in the long-frozen peace talks between Israel and the US-backed Palestinian Authority ahead of the US presidential elections in November.
"We do not want to raise expectations or lower them. This is not a negotiation meeting. The one responsible for negotiations is the (Israeli) prime minister as well as the official negotiating teams," Erekat said.
He added that the meeting would take place in the Palestinian city of Ramallah.
Hamas and other Palestinian factions have been critical of Abbas' continued pursuit of negotiations with Israel, which they see as going nowhere.
Mofaz, head of Israel's centrist Kadima party, joined Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's coalition in May to form one of the biggest coalitions in Israeli history, a move that commentators said could give Netanyahu a freer hand to seek peace with the Palestinians.
Negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians broke down in late 2010 in a dispute over illegal Jewish settlement building in the West Bank, and Palestinians have demanded a halt to the construction before talks resume.
Israel, which is in the position of power, has shown little interest in pursuing peace talks with the Palestinians, nor seen any need to compromise to a weak Palestinian Authority.