A senior official in the Palestine Liberation Organization on Tuesday confirmed a report by The Times of Israel that Interior Minister Silvan Shalom and senior Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat have held secret talks in Amman in recent days.
Tayseer Khaled, a member of the PLO politburo and the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine said the secret meeting in the Jordanian capital was not the first, according to a report in the online Palestinian newspaper Donia Al-Watan.
“There were secret meetings held in several European cities such as Paris, and most recently in Oman,” he said.
Khalid said Shalom’s involvement was an Israeli attempt to counter its increasing isolation from the international community following the breakdown of peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians last year.
According to Israeli sources, the two met in a bid to calm tensions between the two sides, which have spiraled in the past week.
Shalom, a senior Likud lawmaker, serves as the chief Israeli negotiator in peace talks with the Palestinians. In a recent speech, he called on the sides “to renew negotiations and try to reach understandings and agreements.”
He also said he favored “frank talks that are conducted discreetly.”
It remains unclear what topics were raised in the discussions, or what outcomes they may have had. The Amman meeting was described as a “trust-building” move.
Tensions between Israel and the Palestinians have run high in the past week, following the shooting deaths of two Palestinians by Israeli forces in separate incidents on Wednesday and Thursday, and the approval of the construction of hundreds of Israeli homes in the West Bank, ending what analysts have called a de facto year-long construction freeze in isolated West Bank settlements.
Meanwhile, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas is preparing to announce his resignation as head of the PA in two months’ time, Channel 1 reported. Palestinian officials told the station that the 80-year-old president’s resignation was due to “fatigue.” There was no official confirmation of the report.
On Friday, former PLO secretary-general Yasser Abed Rabbo attacked Abbas in an interview with al-Monitor, saying the president was a “one-man” ruler of the West Bank. Abbas was elected in 2005 for a four-year term, but remains in office without new elections.