Jerusalem missing from the agenda as Olmert and Abbas meet

Prime Minister Ehud Olmert hosted Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas for two hours of talks at his Jerusalem residence Tuesday night. The leaders discussed the ongoing peace negotiations between the sides, but according to Israeli officials the issue of Jerusalem was not raised. Such an omission lends weight to Israeli claims - denied by Palestinian officials - that the most contentious of all the core issues is indeed being left until the end of the talks. The prime minister's spokes-man, Mark Regev, said after the meeting, "The two leaders directed the negotiators to continue talks with the same level of seriousness that has characterized the talks up till now. Olmert and Abbas will meet again in two weeks' time, and in the interim, the negotiators will continue to meet on an ongoing basis." After the summit, chief Palestinian negotiator Ahmed Qurei commented, "We agreed that the negotiations should be accelerated. I can't say that there is progress, but at the same time, I can't say that it's hopeless." It was agreed that negotiating teams would be set up by both sides to tackle technical issues, such as water and environmental issues. The Palestinians demanded humanitarian relief for Gaza and the reopening of the border crossings to the Strip. Olmert promised to examine the Palestinian proposals and reiterated that Israel would not allow a humanitarian crisis to develop in Gaza. But there was no Israeli commitment to reopen the border crossings. Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat said Abbas also pushed for a further release of Palestinian prisoners. Olmert and Abbas were joined for the first hour of talks by Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, as well as Olmert's political adviser Shalom Turgeman and bureau chief Yoram Turbowicz. Abbas was joined by Qurei and Erekat. The two leaders held private discussions during the second hour. Neither side provided details of the discussions, saying discretion was essential if the negotiations were to have any chance of succeeding. At the same time, Hamas condemned Abbas for agreeing to meet Olmert. "We are sorry that the president is using Olmert as an ally against Palestinians and that these meetings are taking place at a time when the aggression of the occupation has not stopped," Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum said. Ahead of the meeting, Livni stressed that any agreement reached with the Palestinians would be subject to the implementation of their road map commitments. Addressing the Conference of Presidents of Major Jewish Organizations at the Foreign Ministry in Jerusalem, Livni made it clear that without changes on the ground, there would be no Palestinian state. "The road to a Palestinian state goes through renunciation of violence and terrorism, responding to the situation in Gaza, and being more effective in the West Bank," the foreign minister said. "This is a part of Annapolis and something the United States supports deeply." Livni admitted that the current negotiations did not provide an answer to the problem of Gaza, and she also made it clear that a future Palestinian state would have to be demilitarized. The foreign minister said Israel would have to give up some parts of the land if the country were to remain a democratic and secure Jewish state. "Whoever thinks stopping negotiations will stop terror is not in touch with reality," she told the Jerusalem conference. She stressed that Israel "will not be any part of the solution to the Palestinian refugee problem," rejecting the Palestinians' demand for the right of return for refugees who fled in 1948 and 1967. AP contributed to this report.