Olmert to meet with Abbas next week

Eisin: Talks to focus on humanitarian issues; Rice may meet both leaders later.

jp.services2 (photo credit: )
(photo credit: )
Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas will meet next week for their second summit in a month for talks that will focus on humanitarian matters rather than the core issues of the Mideast dispute, Olmert spokeswoman Miri Eisin said Tuesday. "We expect them to meet next week, although an exact date has yet to be set," Eisin said. "It's important to keep up with these meetings in order to keep open the channel of communication." The two leaders met on February 19, along with US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. The upcoming meeting would be one-on-one, with Rice possibly coming later in March for separate meetings with the leaders. Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat said the two sides had not completed preparations and no final date had been set for an Abbas-Olmert meeting. He said he hoped the two leaders could meet "in the near future." Last month's summit produced few results, amid Israeli and US concerns over the planned coalition government between Abbas's Fatah party and Hamas. Rice reported no progress in restarting talks on a final peace deal - the ostensible purpose of the meeting when it was announced. Expectations plummeted after Abbas and Hamas, which controls the Palestinian parliament, agreed to a power-sharing deal that fell short of meeting international demands that it recognize Israel, accept previous peace deals and renounce violence. But in the coalition deal, Hamas only pledged to "respect" past peace agreements. Despite the accord, Abbas and Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh, of Hamas, have so far failed to agree on the composition of a unity government, and street fighting between the two sides has flared up again. After an inconclusive session of talks Monday, Abbas and Haniyeh were expected to meet again Tuesday to discuss the crucial issue of who would be interior minister and thereby control security forces.