Isaac Molcho, the special envoy of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has held talks with European Union's foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton in Brussels on Wednesday, the European bloc said in a statement issued Thursday..
Molcho briefed Catherine about the progress made in "Israeli-Palestinian contacts in the context of the on-going dialogue between Israel and the EU." No further details were provided.
Negotiators from Israel and the Palestine Authority in the West Bank have been holding a series of informal discussions since January 3 in the Omani capital of Amman, seeking ways to revive the currently stalled peace negotiations.
Palestinians, backed by most Arab states, have been fighting Israel for an independent state ever since the Jewish nation captured West Bank and Golan Heights from Syria, the Gaza Strip from Egypt and east Jerusalem from Jordan in the 1967 War.
Earlier, Palestinian and Israeli negotiators resumed peace negotiations under the mediation of the United States in Washington in September 2010. The talks, which came after a gap of nearly two years, ended in a deadlock as Israel refused to extend a construction freeze in the West Bank after its expiry on September 26, 2010.
Israel has since approved several plans to build new settler homes in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, ignoring strong objections from the international community. Palestinians insist they will return to peace negotiations only if Israel stops settlement construction in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.
Hamas, a radical Islamist group that controls the Gaza Strip, was not involved in the US-mediated peace negotiations with Israel. Hamas came to power in the Gaza Strip in June 2007, ousting the more secularist Fatah faction.
Israel has settled about 500,000 Jews in more than 100 settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem since the 1967 Six-Day War. However, Israel's annexation of the captured area is not recognized by the international community, which considers building settlements in the occupied land as illegal.
The international community has been making serious efforts to revive the stalled talks and had been consistently urging Israel to stop all kinds of settlement activities in occupied Palestinian territories. The Jewish nation was reminded of its obligation under the previously accepted 2003 peace plan.
The 2003 peace plan mediated by the Middle East Quartet-- comprising the United States, United Nations, European Union and Russia-- requires Israel to dismantle settlement outposts erected since 2001 and freeze all settlement activities, while Palestinians are required to halt all violence against Israel. The plan is expected to ultimately lead to an independent Palestinian State with East Jerusalem as its capital.
by RTT Staff Writer
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