olmert 298 88 aj.
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])
Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said in comments broadcast Thursday that he hopes to meet Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas in the coming days.
Asked in an interview with Israel Radio when a summit with Abbas was likely, Olmert said: "I hope in the coming days, I hope. I, in any case, asked him. I told him that I would be happy to meet with him."
The prime minister also reiterated that he would not free any Palestinian prisoners, not even as a goodwill gesture, until Hamas releases kidnapped IDF soldier Gilad Shalit.
Hamas and the other groups holding Shalit have demanded Israel release hundreds of Palestinian prisoners in exchange for the soldier. Egypt has been mediating talks between the sides in the hopes of arranging such a prisoner swap.
But Olmert dismissed notions that Israel would release Palestinian prisoners ahead of the swap, even though Israel has at times made such gestures in the past.
"I am not making gestures," Olmert told the radio. "Until Gilad Shalit is freed I will not deal with freeing Palestinian prisoners."
When pressed about Israeli media reports that he met secretly in recent days with a senior representative of the Saudi government in Jordan, Olmert was evasive. "I think all the speculation on this issue is superfluous," the prime minister said.
Saudi Arabia's Foreign Ministry has denied a meeting took place.
However, Olmert expressed appreciation for the Saudi government's position during the war in Lebanon. "I think it is right to express appreciation for the position that several moderate Aarab countries adopted during the war," Olmert said.
"I think it is one of the achievements of the war, that we created a different momentum in the relations with such countries, and Saudi Arabia is one of them."
Regarding the war, Olmert said that he does not foresee another violent conflict between Israel and Hizbullah in the near future.
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Olmert credited the IDF with changing the reality in Lebanon, making it unlikely that the guerrilla group will engage in anything beyond small border skirmishes with Israel.
"I do not rule out that the sources that activated Hizbullah from the beginning, the Iranians and to some degree the Syrians, will make every effort to activate them in the future, and it could be that as a result we can expect tests," Olmert told Israel Radio.
"But, in my opinion, the chance that Hizbullah will be dragged into a broad military conflict of the type that we had is very small. The reality has changed and Hizbullah knows this well," Olmert added.
The prime minister also rejected a Syrian overture to open peace negotiations, accusing the leadership in Damascus of harboring Palestinian terrorists.
Olmert has repeatedly rejected Syrian President Bashar Assad's recent statements that he desires peace with Israel, saying that so long as he allows Palestinian terror groups, including Hamas group Islamic Jihad, to take refuge in Damascus negotiations are impossible.
"These are reasons that even Syria's statements that it is interested in negotiations cannot be taken seriously," Olmert said. "It (Syria) was and remains the main supporter of the Palestinian terror groups who daily try to carry out terrorism against the state of Israel. In my opinion, this is not a foundation on which it is possible to hold peace negotiations."
In an interview Assad gave to the German weekly Der Spiegel last week, he said, "We want to make peace - peace with Israel."
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