Report: Significant progress with PA possible until summer

Senior US officials say progress possible despite obstacles, but stress importance of Arab countries' support.

Olmert Abbas 224.88 (photo credit: AP [file])
Olmert Abbas 224.88
(photo credit: AP [file])
Senior US officials said on Friday that Israel and the Palestinians could begin discussing significant issues already in the summer of 2007, the Reuters news agency reported. The officials said they believed both sides could achieve progress in negotiations despite the many obstacles facing them. A senior officer in the US State Department said the Bush administration wanted to push ahead with the Middle East peace process before the end of his term. The unnamed officer was quoted as saying that in order to achieve peace, "Israel and the Palestinians need to make an effort, but Arab countries also need to help." On Sunday, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert will meet with Palestinian Authority President Mahomud Abbas, as part of the bi-weekly meetings Olmert and Abbas decided to hold when US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice met with them last month. The Sunday meeting will focus on the obstacles bloxking the release of kidnapped IDF Cpl. Gilad Schalit. Israel recently rejected the list of prisoners demanded by the PA in return for Schalit. Olmert is expected to stress the importance of Abbas prssing Hamas to forego demanding the release of Palestinian killers. Olmert is also expected to reiterate Israel's demands that Abbas would work to stop the continuing firing of Kassam rockets, suppress terrorist activities and block weapons smuggling from Egypt into the Gaza strip. The prime minister's office said on Thursday that the US was not involved in the preparations for Sunday's meeting, but that Olmert was keeping the Americans updated on the proceedings.