Olmert, Abbas To Discuss 'Political Horizon' At Sunday Meeting

Friday, April 13th 2007, 7:20 am
By: News On 6

JERUSALEM (AP) _ A meeting Sunday between Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas will include a general discussion of a future Palestinian state, Palestinian and Israeli officials said Friday, but is not expected to yield dramatic results.

Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat said the two leaders would discuss the ``political horizon'' at the Sunday meeting, the first in a series of biweekly meetings that Olmert and Abbas agreed to hold at the prodding of Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.

``Specifically, they will probe the possibility of turning President Bush's vision of a two-state solution into a realistic political track,'' Erekat said.

David Baker, an official in Olmert's office, confirmed that Olmert and Abbas would discuss ``the composition of a future Palestinian state,'' but said talks would focus mainly on security and humanitarian issues. Olmert also plans to raise the issue of Cpl. Gilad Shalit, an Israeli soldier held captive by Hamas-linked militants since June, 2006, Baker said.

A prisoner swap deal for Shalit's release has been in the works for months, but has not produced results so far.

Erekat said the Sunday meeting would take place in Jerusalem, but Baker would not confirm that.

The two leaders' agreement to hold regular meetings was announced at the end of March by Rice, who visited the region repeatedly over the past months in an attempt to jumpstart peace talks.

Israel opposes final status negotiations with the Palestinians as long as their government includes the Islamist group Hamas, which refuses to recognize Israel or renounce violence, and as long as Palestinian militants continue holding Shalit and firing rockets from Gaza.

Because of that opposition, Rice announced that the Olmert-Abbas talks are supposed to include only discussion of the more vaguely defined ``political horizon.''

The term appears to include general discussion of a two-state solution but no substantive negotiations on the issues dividing the sides, such as permanent borders, the fate of disputed Jerusalem, and a solution for Palestinian refugees who lost their homes when Israel was formed in 1948.