"These were the most serious talks the sides have ever conducted," said Mark Regev, spokesman for the PM's Office. A senior Israeli official added that major progress was achieved mainly on the issue of the permanent borders of a future Palestinian state and the security arrangements such a development would entail.
However, no progress as reported on the core issues of Jerusalem and the right of return of Palestinian refugees.
Olmert's meeting with Abbas was held just a few hours after the PM met Condoleezza Rice for the second time during the US secretary of state's 2-day visit to the region. Rice left Israel a short while later.
According to the Israeli official, Egyptian Intelligence chief Omar Suleiman is due to arrive in Israel next week and present Olmert with a truce agreement that has been approved by the Palestinian terror group. Israel is expected to respond to the offer following a special cabinet meeting.
A few months ago Israel said it would agree to cease all attacks in Gaza should the terror emanating from the Strip, including the incessant Qassam rocket attacks on the western Negev, come to an end as well. Jerusalem also conditioned its consent to a truce agreement on the cessation of the arms smuggling from Egypt into Gaza and that steps will be taken to prevent Hamas from gaining more strength.
Hamas is demanding that in the framework of a ceasefire agreement a solution will be found to the issue of the Gaza crossings. The Israeli official said Israel has yet to respond to this demand, but added that Olmert promised Abbas he would intervene in the matter.
Another matter discussed by the negotiating teams, headed by Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni and former Palestinian Prime Minister Ahmed Qureia, was the humanitarian concern for the citizens of Gaza. Olmert promised Abbas that Israel would allow the crossing of goods and supplies necessary to the population.
On their end, the Palestinians mentioned the successful deployment of 400 Palestinian officers in Jenin, as a basis for continuing cooperation.
The senior Israeli official summed up the meeting as "very successful". According to him, Abbas did not express any embitterment about the proceedings, but just the opposite. He added that the negotiating teams are scheduled to meet soon for the continuation of discussions.