One the eve of the visit by President Gorge W. Bush to the occupied West Bank and Israel on Wednesday, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister, agreed today to kick off final status negotiations.
Saeb Eriqat, a senior Palestinian negotiator, stated that both leaders agreed during a meeting in west Jerusalem, to begin ‘serious/genuine’ final status negotiations on core contentious issues.

‘ we hope that such talks would serve as a chance to reach a genuine peace treaty in the course of 2008, and this requires halt of Israeli settlement activities and unabated attacks’ said Eriqat.

The Palestinian negotiator pointed out that the Abbas-Olmert meeting focused on possible resumption of both sides’ talks on core issues such as status of Jerusalem, Palestinian refugees’ problem, Palestinian prisoners, security, environment and the legal perspective of the talks.

Eriqat confirmed that Abbas requested that any party should not carry out actions that might create new facts on the ground, emphasizing the need that Israel halts settlement activities and frequent attacks on Palestinian cities, towns and refugee camps.

Abbas called also for reactivating three mechanisms, agreed upon in last November’s conference in Annapolis, which are meant to help both parties implement the first phase of the U.S-backed Road Map peace plan of 2003, Eriqat maintained.

Concerning the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip, Eriqat reveled, Abbas called on Israel not to undermine the Gaza’s civilian life by refraining from attacking the coastal territory and allowing smooth movement of the population through the various crossings, which Israel continues to close since June2007.

Abbas-Olmert meeting comes just hours before President Gorge W. Bush arrives in the region within Bush’s attempt to boost up Palestinian-Israeli talks, that were hampered last December given Israeli plans to build new housing settlement units in the occupied east Jerusalem.

Bush hosted in Annapolis, Maryland, United States, in November2007, a middle east peace conference, aimed at reviving a seven-year-long stalled peace process, on basis of a two-state solution living side by side.