Special advisor to the prime minister Dov Weisglass and chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat met Friday, less than a week before Prime Minister Ariel Sharon is set to meet Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas.
Palestinian sources said the Weisglass-Erekat meeting was "positive and serious," as it dealt with the implementation of the Road Map peace plan and the Sharm agreements. The Israeli side defined the meeting as "good and positive."
The meeting took place at the Carlton Hotel in Tel Aviv.
Israeli officials said the issue of releasing prisoners with "blood on their hands" was not discussed during the meeting, however it was agreed upon - following an Israeli suggestion - to reconvene several joint committees , including the Committee for Prisoner Release and Security Committee.
The Palestinians have requested the release of thousands of prisoners, but have not yet received an answer form Israel.
During the meeting, Weisglass also clarified Israel's objection to Hamas' participation in upcoming PA elections.
Officials: Weaponry in PA not discussed
It was decided that a second meeting would take place, probably on Sunday, where Erekat and Weisglass could discuss the groundwork in more detail prior to the Sharon-Abbas meeting next week.
Israeli officials said that should both sides reach an agreement regarding the agenda for Sharon's meeting with Abbas, the two leaders would get together on Tuesday. However, should no understanding be reached, the meeting would be postponed.
The officials said the Palestinians did not receive specific answers to their questions and Israel did not announce any detailed steps regarding the future.
They also said the subject of weaponry and ammunition distribution in the Palestinian Authority was not discussed. They emphasized that the central issue discussed was the renewal of the Sharm agreements and a return to cooperation and dialogue.
Palestinians: We need eased conditions
The Palestinians said the implementation of the Road Map peace plan and Sharm agreements were discussed during the meeting, as well as an Israeli withdrawal from Palestinian towns, the release of prisoners and a solution for Palestinians expelled from the country.
The Palestinians also demanded Israel stop all construction of settlements and the security fence. They said the issue of the Rafah border crossing and upcoming PA elections was also raised during the meeting.
According to the Palestinians, the Israeli side mainly raised issues pertaining to security and demanded the PA gain control of the Authority as one governing force, with one legal use of weaponry by the PA.
PA sources told Ynet that the Palestinians are determined to bring about eased conditions for the Palestinian public, prior to the Sharon-Abbas meeting.
Erekat has said that the meeting will not be one for the sake of public relations.
Meanwhile, the Quartet’s Special Envoy James Wolfensohn met with Israeli and Palestinians officials Thursday evening to discuss a solution for the Rafah crossing, in preparation for the Sharon-Abbas meeting.
Both sides agreed to a series of talks in a bid to reach a solution leading up to the summit next week.
- Attila Somfalvi contributed to the report