JERUSALEM – The issue of Jerusalem was not discussed during Tuesday’s meeting between Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.
Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni and top Palestinian negotiator Ahmed Qurei were also present in the meeting, which took place at Olmert’s Jerusalem residence.
Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat said Abbas and Olmert "reviewed" the issues without reaching agreement and set another meeting in two weeks. Abbas also raised concerns about Israel’s blockade of Gaza and pushed for release of Palestinian prisoners, Erekat said.
Israeli government spokesman Mark Regev said the two leaders met privately for an hour and with their teams for another hour.
"Israel is considering what the Palestinians raised and we reiterated our commitment that there should not be a humanitarian crisis in Gaza," he said.
It has been less than three months since an attempted relaunch of the peace process in the US city of Annapolis, where the Bush administration pushed for a "commitment" to try to reach a deal by the end of 2008.
But negotiations have stalled and violence is continuing in Gaza.
In January, Israeli and Palestinian negotiators began talks on the "core issues" at the heart of the Middle East conflict – Jerusalem, borders and the continued building of settlements, refugees and the "right of return".
Both sides have failed to agree on a deal that is suitable for Israel, and will contribute to the building of a Palestinian state.
Israel occupied east Jerusalem during the 1967 war and has since declared the entire city its "eternal, undivided capital".
Under international law, Israel’s annexation of the Arab eastern sector is illegal.
Olmert said he will make every effort to reach a peace agreement with the Palestinians this year. But he vowed that the army "will hit everyone who attacks Israel".
He said: "We will reach out for anyone involved in perpetrating terrorism against Israelis, and we will not hesitate to attack them in order to stop them." "That applies to everyone, first and foremost Hamas. Hamas is in charge of Gaza."
(Agencies, Aljazeera.net and Jpost.com)