Abbas Haniyeh 224.88.
(photo credit: AP [file])
Prime Minister Ehud Olmert will meet with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas in the capital on Friday, amid annoyance in Jerusalem with Abbas's comments a day earlier that Israel is holding discreet talks with Hamas.
Abbas told Al-Arabiyeh television that Israeli and Hamas representatives had been meeting to discuss ending Israel's "siege" of Gaza, including its ban on exports.
Following closed-door talks in Amman with Jordan's King Abdullah II, Abbas said, "There are meetings between Hamas and Israel at the Erez crossing and other places."
According to Abbas, the talks are aimed at "bringing calm and to normalize relations."
Both Israel and Hamas immediately denied that any contacts were taking place. While Hamas said Abbas's comments were meant to increase the Fatah controlled-PA's own credibility in talking to Israel, there was speculation in Jerusalem that Abbas was trying to pave the way for Hamas-Fatah contacts.
According to this logic, Israel could not object - as it currently does - to Hamas-Fatah contacts if it itself were talking to the Islamist organization. Israel has said that a reconstruction of a Hamas-Fatah unity government would spell the end of the current diplomatic process.
Israeli officials said the issue would likely be raised at Friday's meeting Olmert-Abbas meeting, where the two leaders would continue to talk about both drawing up a joint statement to be presented at the planned US-sponsored meeting in Annapolis, Maryland, and ongoing day-to-day issues. The Palestinian and Israeli negotiating teams working on the joint document will not take part in Friday's talks.
Olmert continued to play down expectations for the Maryland conference, telling an Israel Bonds gathering in Jerusalem Thursday, "We don't want to mislead anyone that Annapolis is the event that will conclude peace between us and the Palestinians."
"If all goes well, hopefully, we will meet in Annapolis," he said. "[But] Annapolis is not made to be the event for the declaration of peace."
Olmert said the implementation of the road map peace plan "according to its original sequence is a precondition for any movement on the actual implementation of whatever we may reach with the Palestinians. So we can be confident that the prerequisites for Israel's security are fully accomplished before we are required to make any concession that might jeopardize the security of the State of Israel."
Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni articulated a similar sentiment in a meeting Thursday with US National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley.
According to a statement issued by Livni's office, she told Hadley she attributed a great deal of importance to the current Israeli-Palestinian dialogue.
"The process is complex, and we must manage it wisely to enable us to reach agreements, after which the road map security principles will be implemented by the Palestinians. At that stage, Israel will be able to undertake its own part in the agreements," Livni said.
Hadley also met Thursday with Olmert, and is scheduled to meet him again on Friday. According to the Prime Minister's Office, this is Hadley's first trip to the region since replacing Condoleezza Rice as US President George W. Bush's national security adviser in 2005.
Diplomatic officials said Hadley's talks would focus not only on the Palestinian issue, but also on other regional issues such as Syria and Iran.
Also Thursday, Livni announced the appointment of Nimrod Barkan, director of the Foreign Ministry's Center for Policy Research, as coordinator of a newly-established team that will provide staff work, background and assistance to the Israeli negotiating team that she heads. This team will include Middle East, legal and planning experts in the Foreign Ministry, as well as officials from other government ministries and the defense establishment.
AP contributed to this report.