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PA official denies key issues will be put on hold
Palestinian official rebuffs reports that Olmert, Abbas agreed not to discuss key issues at US-sponsored peace conference, adds Abbas will press Olmert on timetable for negotiations to reach final status agreement

Israeli officials were upbeat Wednesday when they declared that Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas agreed not discuss key issues at the US-sponsored peace conference next month.

 

But a Palestinian official told Ynet on Thursday that Abbas would press Olmert for a timetable to reach agreement on key issues.

 

The official said that the two sides would make an announcement of intentions that binds both sides to push ahead with peace talks.

 

The official also said that after the meeting between Olmert and Abbas on Tuesday, Abbas aides demanded that Israel halt activities that risk derailing the peace talks, such as the expansion of West Bank settlements, improve the living conditions of the Palestinians.

 

The Palestinians also want the peace process to be "serious, devoid of international meddling and with a clear timetable," arguing that the lack of such criteria would jeopardize the peace talks.

 

The official hoped that US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice's visit to the region next month would push Olmert and Abbas to discuss key issues.

 

Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat said Olmert and Abbas discussed ways to advance the peace process.

 

"The meeting is the beginning of deep negotiations that will seek to solve all the issues surrounding a final status agreement according to international resolutions," Erekat said.

 

The Palestinian negotiation team will be headed by former Prime Minister Ahmed Qurei, said Erekat, who will coordinate between the various Palestinian teams.

 

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