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Middle East

Palestinians and Israelis negotiators agree to meeting

Israeli and Palestinian negotiators will meet this week after more than a year of deadlock in peacemaking, officials said last night, but both sides played down prospects of any imminent resumption of talks.

Yitzhak Molcho of Israel and Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat will meet tomorrow in Jordan, alongside representatives of the Quartet of Middle East mediators – the United States, the European Union, Russia and the United Nations.

A spokesman for the Jordanian government said the aim of the meeting would be for both sides to reach common ground to resume talks and reach an accord by the end of 2012. US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton urged both sides to "take advantage of this opportunity".

Negotiations stalled in late 2010 after Israel refused to renew a partial freeze on Jewish settlement in the occupied West Bank as demanded by the Palestinians.

The Palestinians say they cannot hold talks while Israel cements its hold on land where, along with the Gaza Strip, they intend to found a state. The Israelis and Palestinians will meet bilaterally as well as with the Quartet in Amman.

Israel said Mr Molcho would "take part in the Quartet meeting" but made no mention of Mr Erekat, or of direct contact with the Palestinians. REUTERS