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Olmert. Prepares for meeting
Photo: Dudi Vaaknin
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas
Photo: AP
Photo: Noam Rotem
Kidnapped soldier Gilad Shalit
Photo: Noam Rotem
Olmert, Abbas to meet Sunday
Israeli prime minister to meet with Palestinian president next Sunday, possibly in Ramallah, to discuss release of kidnapped IDF soldier Gilad Shalit, make plans for future bi-weekly meetings

Prime Minister Ehud Olmert will meet with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas next Sunday, it was reported on Thursday.

 

The location of the meeting will only be set on Friday; however it will probably take place in Ramallah, the PA's capital, since the last meeting was held in Jerusalem.

 

The two are expected to discuss relations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority without getting into the refugee problem, demands to retract to the 1967 borders or Jerusalem affairs.

 

The meeting was called due to the delayed release of kidnapped IDF soldier Gilad Shalit, after Israel rejected the list of Palestinian prisoners Hamas demanded in exchange for his release.

 

Olmert is expected to reiterate the importance of applying pressure on Hamas to lessen its demands of releasing prisoners with 'blood on their hands.'

 

The prime minister will also demand that Abbas take responsibility and speed up proceedings toward Shalit's release.

 

The two will also discuss Israel's demand that Qassam rockets and Palestinian terror be halted. Abbas will be asked to work to suppress terror activity and stop weapon smuggling at the Egypt-Gaza border.

 

Another important topic as far as Olmert is concerned is the need to stop Hamas' military strengthening, which threatens stability in the Gaza Strip.

 

Sources from the prime minister's office in Jerusalem said on Thursday that the Americans were not involved in setting up Sunday's meeting.

 

Still, Olmert plans to keep the Americans close, in an effort to find a way out of the political standstill Israel has found itself in following the establishment of the Palestinian unity government headed by Hamas' Ismail Haniyeh.

 

US Secretary of Sate Condoleezza Rice is expected to return to the region next May.

 

Plans for the future 

In addition to humanitarian issues, the leaders plan to decide on the outlines to their bi-weekly meetings, which were agreed upon in their previous meeting with Rice before Passover.

 

During these meetings, relations between Israel and the future Palestinian state in matters such as mutual security, legislation, trade and taxation will be discussed.

 

Security matters to be discussed include securing the border between the two states, the depth of the demilitarized zone, forces which will be posted near the borders and communication lines between the parties.

 

In the legal aspect, the main topics to be discussed will be the matter of extradition and the prosecution of citizens of the neighbor state.

 

Trade talks will include deciding on ways of transferring goods between the states, taxation and payments. Employment opportunities between the two countries will also be discussed.

 

In between the bi-weekly meetings, professional crews from both sides will work on the content and execution of decisions reached in the meetings.

 

At the same time, the possibility of implementing the Saudi peace initiative will continue to be examined, via American mediators.

 

Olmert has not completely rejected the possibility of participating in a summit meeting with moderate Arab countries, if and when he was invited to such a meeting.

 

The prime minister has also publicly invited moderate Arab leaders to Israel, to examine ways in which the political process may be advanced.

 

Nonetheless, Olmert is determined that all contact is made is under the frame of the road map, and that the Saudi plan, minus the right of return, be part of it.

 

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