JERUSALEM // The Palestinian president, Mahmud Abbas, and the Israeli defence minister, Ehud Barak, have met secretly in Amman ahead of Middle East peace talks that start in Washington this week, Israeli media reported today. The two met on Sunday in a private home in the Jordanian capital, where Barak also held talks with King Abdullah II. The Israeli defence ministry did not immediately confirm the reports. King Abdullah and Egypt's President Hosni Mubarak will join an inaugural meeting in Washington tomorrow between the Israeli prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, and Mr Abbas, who are to launch direct talks the following day.
Thursday's talks will launch the first direct negotiations between the two sides since the Palestinians broke off talks in December 2008, after Israel launched a devastating offensive against the Gaza Strip. * AFP