As Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert met on Sunday in west Jerusalem as part of a series of regular meetings which were advised last month by U.S Secretary of State Condolleezza Rice, there is little hope for breakthrough.
Chief Palestinian negotiator, Saeb Eriqat, said yesterday that the Sunday meeting was meant to discuss a variety of issues including the ease of restrictions on Palestinian movement, a possible extension of the current ceasefire in the West Bank, and the ensurance of halting unilateral Israeli actions.
Palestinian sources said Abbas would discuss with PM Olmert possible means of reviving their stalled peace talks on the basis of the road map peace blueprint, which calls for a two-state solution, envisioned by U.S President Gorge. W Bush.
With a different agenda, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert affirmed that he would press for the release of Israeli corporal Gil’ad Shalit, who has been held by Palestinian resistance groups in Gaza for the past 10 months.
“I will not drop the issue of Shalit in talks with Abbas, and this matter won’t be dropped”, Olmert was quoted as saying. PM Olmert added that he will see if Abbas will live up to his previous pledge to secure an unconditional release of Shalit.
Israel, responding to a Palestinian prisoner swap deal, expressed disappointment and reservation over the Palestinian offer- Palestinians want to see prisoners who are considered ‘blood-stained’ by Israel released.
Israeli sources said that the meeting would avoid addressing final status issues such as the boundaries of the future Palestinian state and the problem of the Palestinian refugees, but would rather deal with the Palestinian economy and rule of law. Reacting to such remarks, Palestinian information minister, Mustafa Barghouti said that these statements herald one thing ‘Israel is no longer a peace partner’. He voicing assessment that Israel only wants the Palestinians to have a ‘limited autonomy’. He also decried what he called a "blatant Israeli intervention in the Palestinian legal system."