PM to meet Abbas amid diplomatic flurry

Gov't spokesperson says two to discuss ongoing security, economic issues and the "political horizon."

September 9, 2007 20:55
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Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas will sit down together on Monday to try to prod along peacemaking efforts ahead of a planned visit by US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and key meetings of international mediators. The two leaders, who last met in Jerusalem in late August, have been getting together regularly in recent months as part of a US-backed effort to revive Israeli-Palestinian peacemaking. A first milestone will be an international peace conference the US plans to convene in November in Washington, and the Palestinians have said that without significant progress beforehand, they will consider the conference a failure. Nimr Hammad, an Abbas political adviser, said the PA chairman would raise both the sweeping issues that divide the two sides and day-to-day concerns. Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat said the meeting would take place Monday at noon at Olmert's Jerusalem residence. The thorny issues include final borders, the status of disputed Jerusalem and the fate of Palestinian refugees. The day-to-day matters include IDF roadblocks in the West Bank and Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails. Government spokeswoman Miri Eisin said the two sides would discuss ongoing security and economic issues as well as the "political horizon" - a reference to the overall concept of what a future Palestinian state would look like. But she cautioned against outsized expectations of the conference, saying all issues will not be resolved by November. "We think the capabilities of the Palestinians to rule, to govern, is an important step to go to the final status negotiations," she said. PA Prime Minister Salaam Fayad said over the weekend that the conference must produce an "explicit agreement on the establishment of a Palestinian state," as well as a binding timetable and international guarantees for the completion of an Israeli-Palestinian agreement. The conference is also meant to boost Abbas's standing. In preparation for the November meeting, the so-called Quartet of Mideast mediators - the US, European Union, Russia and UN - is to convene in Washington in late September and meet Arab League representatives who have been promoting an Arab plan for a comprehensive peace with Israel. Rice is to visit the region next week, ahead of the Quartet's meeting.

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