JERUSALEM (AP) - Israeli Prime Minister Ehud
Olmert's office is trying to work out a meeting with Palestinian
President Mahmoud Abbas meant to help advance peace efforts, a
spokeswoman said Sunday.
British Prime Minister Tony Blair, who was
visiting the region Sunday, is involved in trying to work out a
meeting between the two leaders, Olmert's spokeswoman, Miri
Eisin, said. While Olmert has said he has no preconditions for
such a meeting, the Palestinians have conditioned a meeting on
the release of some of the thousands of Palestinian prisoners
Israel holds, Eisin said.
The chief Palestinian negotiator, Saeb Erekat,
said Abbas had "no conditions" for the meeting. "President Abbas
stands fully ready to meet with Mr. Olmert. If the Israelis
wish, we are ready to begin the preparations for this meeting
immediately," Erekat said. Meanwhile, Abbas aide Nabil Abu
Rdeneh said contacts were underway to set up a meeting.
Abbas has expressed a willingness to meet,
saying Friday he would want such talks to be "beneficial and
fruitful." Palestinian officials have said Abbas expects such a
meeting to include an announcement that Israel will release
Olmert said Saturday after meeting with Blair
that he would be willing to meet Abbas and work with him to push
forward peace efforts. Israel's first priority in such talks is
winning the release of an Israeli soldier captured by
Palestinian militants in an attack on army base near Gaza on
June 25, Olmert said.
The two leaders last met in June, but it was a
breakfast meeting attended by other Mideast leaders, and no
progress came out of the talks. Blair was slated to meet with
Abbas later Sunday in the West Bank city of Ramallah.