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Palestinians open new peace talks with a threat

Palestinian and Israeli peace talks began with a 'brainstorming session' in Jordan today, the first face-to-face meetings in more than a year.

By Jamal Halaby and Josef FedermanAssociated Press / January 3, 2012

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in the West Bank city of Ramallah, Tuesday, Jan. 3, 2012. Israeli and Palestinian peace negotiators met in Jordan today.

(AP Photo/Nasser Shiyoukhi)

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Amman, Jordan

 The chief Israeli and Palestinian peace negotiators on Tuesday were holding their first face-to-face meeting in more than a year, searching for a formula to restart long-stalled negotiations.

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With prospects for a breakthrough appearing dim, the Palestinian president threatened to take "new measures" against Israel at the end of the month. Nonetheless, Tuesday's meeting, in the presence of international diplomats, marked the strongest chance in months for reviving talks.

Jordan's Foreign Ministry said Israel's Yitzhak Molcho and Palestinian envoy Saeb Erekat met with envoys from the "Quartet" of Mideast mediators — the United States, Russia, the European Union and the United Nations.

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Afterward, the two men met in the presence of their Jordanian host, Foreign Minister Nasser Judeh, to exchange positions on key issues of security and borders between Israel and a future Palestinian state.

A diplomat who attended the larger meeting said the talks were "serious."

"It was a brainstorming session in which both sides, the Israelis and Palestinians, showed eagerness to restart peace negotiations," the diplomat said. He declined to elaborate and insisted on anonymity, saying a public comment could adversely affect the sensitive meeting.

The Quartet has been working for months to restart peace talks. The international group hopes to broker a final peace agreement by the end of the year.

For now, simply restarting a peace process would mark a significant achievement. Negotiations broke down in September 2010 after the expiration of an Israeli settlement slowdown.

The Palestinians have refused to return to the table while Israel builds settlements in the West Bank and east Jerusalem — areas captured by Israel in the 1967 Mideast war that the Palestinians hope to make part of a future state. They also want Israel to commit to returning to its pre-1967 war lines as the basis for final borders.

The international community has largely backed the Palestinian positions on settlements and borders, but stopped short of making them conditions for restarting talks.

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