WASHINGTON, Jan. 1 (UPI) -- Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Sunday the United States welcomes word Jordan will host two Israeli-Palestinian meetings this week.
The Jordanian government announced Sunday that Foreign Minister Nasser Judeh will guide Tuesday's sessions, the State Department said in a release. One will include Israeli and Palestinian negotiators and envoys from the Quartet -- the United Nations, the United States, the European Union and Russia. The second meeting will be between the Israeli and Palestinian representatives.
"We welcome and support this positive development," Clinton said in the statement. "I applaud the efforts of ... [Jordanian] King [Abdullah] and Foreign Minister Judeh to bring the parties together and encourage them to approach these meetings constructively."
Clinton said she has been "in close contact" with Judeh and U.S. Special Envoy David Hale.
"When I met with the other Quartet principals on Sept. 23 we put forward a framework for resuming direct negotiations between the parties," she said. "We knew that progress toward this goal would not be easy so it is essential that both sides take advantage of this opportunity.
"We are hopeful that this direct exchange can help move us forward on the pathway proposed by the Quartet. As the president and I have said before, the need for a lasting peace is more urgent than ever. The status quo is not sustainable and the parties must act boldly to advance the cause of peace."
Ynetnews reported Yitzhak Molcho, Israel's chief negotiator to talks with the Palestinians, would travel to Amman Tuesday for the Quartet meeting.
"We thank the king of Jordan and the Jordanian foreign minister for initiating this move in accordance with the Quartet's outline," Yoaz Hendel, head of the National Information Directorate, told Ynetnews.
However, Palestinian chief negotiator Saeb Erekat cautioned the meetings do not constitute a resumption of peace negotiations.
Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, Erekat said, "needs to freeze the construction of settlements and accept the '67 outline for a two-state solution before we return to the negotiations table."
Erekat told the Israeli news Web site he hopes the Israeli government "does not miss out on this opportunity," adding he appreciated the king's invitation.