Clinton meets with Palestinian, Israeli negotiators

WASHINGTON (JTA) — U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton met separately with senior Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat and his Israeli counterpart, Yitzhak Molho.

Erekat, in a brief statement to reporters after the meetings Monday, denied any communication with Molho, saying he only found out Molcho was also meeting in Washington once Erekat arrived, Haaretz reported.

"There was no meeting with the Israeli delegate Yitzhak Molcho, no direct or indirect exchange of messages," Erekat told Haaretz.

The Palestinians have refused direct talks with Israel since September, when Israel refused to extend a partial moratorium on settlement building.

Erekat later reportedly told a group of scholars that the Palestinians would return to talks if Israel committed to the parameters President Obama set out in his May 19 Middle East policy speech: Negotiations based on 1967 lines, with mutually agreed land swaps.

Clinton’s talks with Palestinian and Israeli negotiators are part of an effort to restart Middle East peace talks, State Department deputy spokesman Mark Toner said during a briefing Monday, and come in the wake of a French proposal to have the two parties sit down early this summer to negotiate holding new talks.

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