Representatives of the Quartet of Middle East peace negotiators -- the United Nations, the European Union, the United States and Russia -- convened in Jerusalem on Thursday, for the first time since U.S. President Donald Trump took office in January.
The representatives meet routinely for ongoing updates, but this was the first time in two years that the group has met in Israel.
Trump's special envoy to the region Jason Greenblatt met with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for a sixth time on Wednesday, and was to meet with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas Thursday. The objective of the meetings is to formulate an American strategy for relaunching the Israeli-Palestinian peace process.
The pan-Arab daily Al Hayat reported Wednesday that Trump was expected to invite delegations from Israel and the Palestinian Authority to restart the stalled negotiations within a time frame of one to two years. The report further suggested that Israel had agreed to slow settlement construction across Judea and Samaria -- a claim that Israeli officials later denied.
According to the report, Greenblatt has already briefed the Palestinians on the understandings, during a meeting on Tuesday with chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat.
According to Al Hayat, the Israeli and Palestinian delegations are expected to debate key issues pertaining to a permanent peace agreement including the status of Jerusalem, the settlements, Palestinian refugees, borders, security arrangements and water allocation. The paper quoted a senior Palestinian official as saying that the Trump administration hopes to reach separate agreements on each individual issue.
The Prime Minister's Office issued a statement later on Wednesday declaring that "no commitment has been made" by Israel to slow settlement construction.
Meanwhile, U.N. Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process Nickolay Mladenov told reporters in Jerusalem that the level of mistrust between Israel and the Palestinians was mounting.
"It is not helpful right now to jump to final status issues and arrangements, and it would be premature in a way, because the level of mistrust between the sides is so big that if you suddenly jump to those issues, you will not have a constituency on either side," he said Wednesday.
Mladenov explained that Israelis believe that peace talks will lead to fresh hostilities and the Palestinians believe that peace talks will result in the loss of territory.
He further warned that the crisis in Gaza was a danger to both Palestinians and Israelis, saying that if the crisis deteriorates, it would impact Israel's security because another conflict in Gaza would destroy any possibility of renewing diplomatic talks between Israel and the Palestinians.
"I am today warning the Security Council that unless urgent measures are taken to de-escalate, the crisis risks spiraling out of control with devastating consequences for Palestinians and Israelis alike," he said.
Mladenov will be meeting in Jerusalem on Thursday with the U.S., Russian, and EU Quartet envoys as the representative of the U.N.