Israeli, Palestinian officials meet in Jordan for talks on de-escalation
Israel government denied most of the agreements that had been achieved in a meeting of senior Israeli and Palestinian security officials in Jordan.
Amman/Jerusalem: Israel government denied most of the agreements that had been achieved in a meeting of senior Israeli and Palestinian security officials in Jordan.
The meeting on Sunday was called by Jordan in a bid to soothe tensions ahead of the holy month of Ramadan, Xinhua news agency reported.
According to a statement released by the Jordanian Foreign Ministry after the meeting held in Aqaba, the Israeli and Palestinian representatives had agreed to de-escalation.
After “comprehensive and frank” discussions, which were also attended by officials from Egypt, the United States and Jordan, the Israeli and Palestinian officials stressed their commitment to all previous agreements between them, and to work towards a just and lasting peace.
They also underlined the necessity of committing to de-escalation on the ground and to prevent further violence and stressed their joint readiness and commitment to immediately work to end unilateral measures for a period of three to six months.
The commitments include one by Israel to cease discussion of any new settlement units for four months and to stop authorization of any outposts for six months.
Israel and the Palestinians agreed to uphold the status quo at the al-Aqsa Mosque compound, a flashpoint site in East Jerusalem that is holy to both Muslims and Jews, the statement said.
They have also agreed to pursue confidence-building measures and strengthen mutual trust in order to address outstanding issues through direct dialogue.
The officials from the five countries agreed to convene again in Sharm El Sheikh in March to achieve the goals listed above.
In the statement, Jordan, Egypt, and the U.S. said the understandings reached during the Aqaba meeting represent major progress towards re-establishing and deepening relations between the two sides.
They also stressed the significance of the Aqaba meeting which is believed to be the first such meeting between the two sides in years, and agreed to continue the talks under this formula, maintain the positive momentum and expand this agreement towards a wider political process leading to a just and lasting peace.
However, shortly after the meeting, Israel’s government denied most of the agreements.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who re-took power last December as the leader of a far-right coalition government, wrote on Twitter that the approval and construction of new housing units in the Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank “will continue according to the original planning and construction schedule, without any changes.”
The country’s national security advisor Tzachi Hanegbi said in a separate statement that “in the coming months,” Israel will legalize nine Israeli outposts and approve some 9,500 new housing units in the settlements.
“There is no limitation on the activity of the Israel Defense Forces,” he added.
Several cabinet ministers also denied the agreement. Israel’s Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich, a hardline and pro-settler politician, said the meeting was “useless” and vowed that the construction in the settlements will not be halted “even not for one day.”
The meeting was held hours after a Palestinian gunman killed two Israelis in a drive-by attack in the occupied West Bank. The attack was the latest in months of soaring tensions which saw the killing of at least 60 Palestinians and 13 Israelis.