The PLO has refused to continue talks with Israel after five meetings in Amman between Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat and Israeli representative Yitzchak Molcho.
The two men are scheduled to meet for the fifth and allegedly final time Wednesday, according to the Palestinian Authority's Bethelehem-based Ma'an news agency.
Wednesday's meeting, sponsored by Jordan and the European Union, is a final attempt to get direct final status talks between Israel and the PA back on track, and sort out the unresolved core issues.
EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton arrived at Ben Gurion International Airport Tuesday and is expected to do what she can to exert pressure on both Israel and PLO officials to renew the talks before the January 26 deadline set by international mediators to reach a compromise.
PLO official Hanna Amirah was quoted by Ma'an as saying “the Palestinian leadership would not take a decision to extend negotiations with the Israeli side because the Netanyahu government 'doesn't seek at this stage to achieve any positive progress in the peace process with the Palestinian Authority.'”
However, Erekat – a member of the Fatah terror faction's Central committee -- used the previous meeting to negotiate the release of all PA terrorist prisoners currently incarcerated in Israeli jails, rather than to focus his efforts on discussing the core issues relating to Israel-PA statehood.
Among the issues Erekat raised at the last meeting was advocating for the release of Hamas legislator Aziz Dweik, who had been recently arrested by Israeli security forces.
PA sources confirmed Wednesday the meeting in Amman would be the last, despite “huge pressure” by the Quartet of peacekeeping nations – the U.S., Russia, the United Nations and the European Union – to continue the process.
Before and after every meeting, PA officials had expressed pessimism about the process, telling reporters it was unlikely talks would continue beyond the deadline. Officials made it clear from the outset their presence at the table in Amman came entirely in response to the request of Jordan's King Abdullah II.
PLO and PA officials will discuss the matter after PA/PLO chairman Mahmoud Abbas returns from his tour of Europe. “The Arab follow-up committee will also convene on Feb. 29 to discuss peace negotiations with Israel,” Ma'an reported.