President Abbas discussed with the Israeli prime minster, Olmert in a two-hour meeting the issue of reviving the peace process reaching an end of the occupation and the implantation of the Road Map, the Arab Initiative and the rest of the final status issues. at the Israeli leader's official residence, the first Israeli-Palestinian summit in 22 months. The meeting comes at a time when both men are facing serious political problems at home and stand to gain domestic support with a peace breakthrough.
The two sides agreed to form a committee to discuss the issue of releasing prisoners, according to the head of the PLO Infatuations Affairs Department Saeb Ereikat, he added that Olmert has agreed to release $100 million in tax rebates to the Palestinian National Authority, to be used for humanitarian purposes and ease West Bank travel restrictions. The move revived hopes for a resumption of peace talks after years of hostility and distrust. Olmert and Abbas failed to reach agreement on a key issue -- a prisoner swap -- but decided to set up a committee to study it further. Part of the equation is not in Abbas' hands. Militants allied with Hamas -- rival to Abbas' Fatah party -- hold an Israeli soldier, and Olmert has said he will not release Palestinian prisoners until the soldier is freed.
Erikat affirmed that President Abbas stressed the necessity to extend the truce to the West Bank, asserting that a committee would be formed to discuss issue of the wanted as well as the deportees of Bethlehem. Ereikat added that the meeting between President Mahmoud Abbas and Israeli PM Ehud Olmert was a good meeting, adding that there was agreement on several issues.
President Mahmoud Abbas said that his meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert is a good start for resuming the peace process.
Olmert's office issued a statement saying both men agreed to cooperate as "real partners" and described the meeting's atmosphere as friendly. "Both leaders agreed that this meeting was the first step toward rebuilding mutual trust and fruitful cooperation," the statement said. Olmert, elected in March, has lost much of his popularity during the summer's war with Lebanon's Hezbollah guerrillas, which many in Israel believe ended inconclusively. The war also discredited Olmert's political program, a promise to withdraw from much of the West Bank and draw Israel's borders unilaterally by 2010, without waiting for a peace deal.