Israeli officials have expressed their anger at the EU move against any dealings with settlements in the West Bank because they are built on Palestinian, not Israeli, land. EU officials have, however, claimed that the Palestinian Authority’s Mahmoud Abbas believes that the European stance on settlements gave him the impetus to return to negotiations.
According to Maariv newspaper, during a debate in Brussels in which they participated, both the EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs, Catherine Ashton, and British Foreign Secretary William Hague said that Abbas was clear about this when they spoke to him.
The Palestinians, noted Maariv, have seen a significant change in EU policy regarding the demand for the 1967 borders to be the basis for talks with the Israelis. The “talks about talks” are expected to go on for about a month, during which a schedule for negotiations proper will be prepared. A decision will be taken about whether or not the negotiations will address controversial issues from the past or stay within a very restricted framework.
America’s role will also be discussed at the talks, which will be held in the Jordanian capital Amman.
It is still unclear when the first group of Palestinian prisoners will be released by the Israeli government as part of its “goodwill gesture”, although the phased programme is due to start within 3 weeks of the resumption of negotiations.