Prime Minister Ehud Olmert is "actively" planning for a long-delayed meeting with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, sources close to EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana said Thursday.
The sources said that Solana was told of the preparations during his meeting with Olmert and senior members of his staff in Jerusalem on Wednesday.
According to the sources, Egypt has stepped up efforts to forge an agreement for the release of Cpl. Gilad Shalit, which would be followed some time later by an Israeli release of Palestinian prisoners as a "good will gesture" to Abbas.
This issue would be at the center of any talks between Olmert and Abbas.
A spokesman in the Prime Minister's Office said he was unaware of plans for such a meeting. Olmert has said on a number of occasions that Israel would not conduct a prisoner's swap for Shalit's release.
The sources close to Solana said that while the Hamas leadership in Gaza, which is under intense pressure from Israel, was amenable to this type of deal, the problem was with Damascus-based Hamas head Khaled Mashaal.
The source said that Hamas in Gaza believed that releasing Shalit would distinguish Hamas from Hizbullah, and that Palestinian leaders in Gaza realized it "is dangerous for the Palestinians to be seen in the same bag as Hizbullah." He said that if Hamas showed that it understood that what was happening in the north was not good for them and released Shalit, it could win them some credit with the international community, primarily with Europe.