Olmert’s aide: “No peace talks if P.A government refuses to recognize Israel”

March 11, 2007 4:11 AM Saed Bannoura Israel, News Report, Peace process 0

An Israeli online daily reported that Miri Eisin, a spokeswoman to Israel's Prime Minister, Ehud Olmert, stated on Saturday evening that Israel will not hold peace talks with the Palestinians unless the Palestinian government recognizes Israel.

Eisin also stated that armed Palestinian groups must halt the firing of homemade shells from Gaza at Israeli targets adjacent to the Gaza Strip.

She added that “Israel is trying to build confidence between sides”, and that the current stage is a “pre-negotiation state”.

“We aren't actually talking about substance”, the report quoted Eisin saying. “We're at a point in which we're trying to build confidence between the sides”.

On Sunday, Olmert is slated to meet with the Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas, for the second meeting in one month. Abbas and Olmert last met on February 19 in Jerusalem.

Israeli television reported on Saturday that Olmert intends to tell Abbas that Israel will not block the negotiation panel with him, even if the Palestinian government does not meet the Israeli conditions.

Also, Olmert intends to tell Abbas that Israel will expand the operation hours of the Karni crossing between Israel and the Gaza Strip by the end of March, the Israeli channel said.

Meanwhile, Palestinian Chief Negotiator, Dr. Sa'eb Erikat, said that the Palestinians want the resumption of peace talks that were cut more than six years ago, but added that “this is unlikely under the current conditions”.

Erikat stated that Abbas intends to ask Olmert to halt all of the Israeli military offensives in the occupied West Bank as part of the efforts to solidify the cease-fire.

Abbas and Olmert will discuss the Egyptian efforts that aim to free the captured Israeli soldier, Gilad Shalit, through a prisoner swap deal. Shalit was captured by Palestinian fighters in June 2006.

In the coming days, Israel's Foreign Minister, Tzipi Livni, will have a meeting with the U.S Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice. Livni started a trip to the US on Saturday.

Also, Israel's Defense Minister, Amir Peretz, left Saturday for the US for a planned meeting with the US Defense Secretary, Robert Gates, and United Nations Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon, Israeli media sources reported.

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Saed Bannoura

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