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Saturday, August 4, 2007

Report: Olmert, Abbas to meet in Jericho Sunday

Dare we hope?
By Avi Issacharoff, Haaretz Correspondent and Haaretz Service

The Saudi newspaper Al-Watan reported on Saturday that Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas will meet on Sunday, according to Palestinian sources.
The meeting is set to take place in the West Bank city of Jericho, said the report, and will tackle the framework for a future Palestinian state.
The report said that the two have already begun discussing such a framework. The claim echoes a report earlier this week in the London-based Arabic-language newspaper Al-Hayat, which said that the two leaders had agreed to open a secret channel to discuss final status issues, which include such sticking points as refugees, Jerusalem, and final borders.
Al-Watan also reported on Saturday that U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, who visited the region this past week, told sources in Ramallah that a Middle East peace conference announced last month by President George W. Bush will take place in the United States in November.
Palestinian newspaper Al-Ayyam reported Saturday that Rice, during her visit, asked Abbas and Olmert to intensify secret discussions between them and to hold senior-level meetings - meaning, presumably, between the two of them, and not between their associates.
Results of intensified talks, according to Al-Ayyam, are to be presented at the conference. The report said that once an agreement is struck between Olmert and Abbas, the latter will call for early elections for both the presidency and the Palestinian Legislative Council.
Using an agreement as a rallying cry for new elections is meant to increase the chances of Abbas' Fatah movement to beat rival Hamas in a vote. Hamas swept that last PA elections in 2006, but was dismissed by Abbas from the government after it took over the Gaza Strip in bloody fighting in June.

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