Olmert, Abbas to discuss core issues 'after conference'
Palestinian president visits prime minister's sukkah in Jerusalem. Leaders agree US-sponsored peace conference will only be one step in peace process, rather than its goal. Joint statement to be drafted by negotiation teams will be general and will try 'not to derail'
The meeting between the two leaders, which was held at the prime minister's sukkah in Jerusalem, lasted for two and a half hours.
The parties did not agree on the content of the joint statement they plan to present at the US summit, but did agree that the negotiations teams will hold intensive meetings starting next week in order to discuss the statement's wording.
It is still unclear whether the statement will include the core issues.
At the prime minister's sukkah (Photo: GPO)
"We plan to form a joint statement which both sides will accept, rather than a permanent agreement," said a senior source at the Prime Minister's Office. "The joint statement will be general enough so as not to derail, and on the other hand will push the parties to continue the process."
Olmert and Abbas agreed the teams would convene for bi-weekly meetings, which would be held in the region, and not in a third country. The teams would have to report back to the two leaders after each meeting.
"Both sides understand that the timetable is such that it does not allow for reaching a permanent agreement or even an in-depth discussion of all the issues at hand," said a senior source in the Prime Minister's Office.
"That's why the November conference is just another link in the chain. One the conference ends we will begin discussing the core issues with no time limit."
As for the reports claiming that Abbas gave his blessing to Fatah and Hamas to renew talks in Cairo, the Prime Minister's Office said that "the Palestinians are familiar with Israel's position on the matter – that it might bring the whole process to a halt. The Palestinians don't seem to want that."
During the meeting, the prime minister explained to the Palestinian president about the Jewish holiday of Sukkot. No food or drinks were served due to the Ramadan fast.
The afternoon began with a tete-a-tete meeting between Olmert and Abbas, which was followed by talks with the negotiation teams waiting for the two leaders.
The Israeli team included Olmert's chief of staff Yoram Turbowitz, his diplomatic advisor Shalom Turgeman and Foreign Ministry Aharon Abramovich. The Palestinian team included Fatah members and advisors Ahmed Qureia, Yasser Abed Rabbo and Saeb Erekat.