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Olmert, Abbas to meet in attempt to salvage peace talks

Olmert, Abbas to meet in attempt to salvage peace talks

Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas will meet on Thursday to try to salvage peace talks bogged down by a row over Jewish settlements, Israeli and Palestinian officials said.
"The meeting will be held tomorrow. It will cover various issues," said Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat.
Israeli officials told Reuters the meeting would take place on Thursday, though Olmert spokesman Mark Regev declined to confirm or deny the timing of the talks.
Israeli and Palestinian officials said U.S. intervention might be needed to overcome the impasse in the talks, launched a month ago at a peace conference in Annapolis, Maryland. U.S. President George W. Bush will visit the region in early January.
Israeli and Palestinian negotiating teams reported no progress on Monday in a second round of talks since Olmert and Abbas agreed in Annapolis to try to reach a statehood agreement by the end of 2008.
The Palestinians have ruled out negotiating substantive issues such as borders, the future of Jerusalem and Palestinian refugees until Israel commits itself to halting all settlement activity as called for under the stalled "road map" peace plan.
"We will urge the Israeli government to stop all settlement activities, including natural growth," Erekat said.
Israel has pressed the Palestinians to meet their own road map commitments to rein in militants in the occupied West Bank and Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip as a condition for establishing a Palestinian state.
Olmert told U.S. Senator Arlen Spector in a closed-door meeting on Tuesday that the 2008 goal for statehood was realistic.
"(Olmert) said 'yes'. He said implementation will take longer but getting the deal they can do," Specter told reporters in Jerusalem.
Israel is considering easing criteria for freeing Palestinian prisoners, a move one Israeli official said could pave the way for the release of Palestinian uprising leader Marwan Barghouthi, a possible successor to Fatah leader Abbas.
Easing restrictions on releasing prisoners who Israel says have "blood on their hands," a reference to attacks against Israelis, was part of efforts to secure a swap deal with Hamas for captured Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit.
Israel's Shin Bet intelligence agency and right-wing political parties oppose the changes, arguing they could benefit Hamas, which seized the Gaza Strip in June after routing Abbas's secular Fatah forces.


Updated : 2021-03-04 02:31 GMT+08:00