BETHLEHEM, West Bank (Reuters) - Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said on Tuesday he would hold talks next week with Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert.
The meeting would be the first between the two leaders since they agreed, during a visit to the region by U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice last month, to hold talks once every two weeks.
“My meeting with Olmert will be next week,” Abbas told reporters, without giving an exact date or a venue for the talks.
An Abbas aide later said he would meet Olmert on Sunday.
Olmert has said that Abbas’s power-sharing partnership with Hamas Islamists and the continued captivity of an Israeli soldier seized by militants in Gaza 10 months ago, meant that no real progress toward Palestinian statehood could be made in their face-to-face meetings.
The Abbas aide said: “He (Abbas) will discuss with him (Olmert) the Arab peace initiative and prospects for reviving the peace process.”
Officials in Olmert’s office did not confirm the details.
Last month Arab leaders revived a 5-year-old peace plan that offers Israel normal ties with all Arab states in return for a full withdrawal from the lands it seized in the 1967 Middle East war, creation of a Palestinian state and a “just solution” for Palestinian refugees.
Olmert has called for a regional conference with Arab leaders, which has been seen by diplomats as a diversionary tactic.
He and Abbas last met at the prime minister’s official residence in Jerusalem on March 11.
Additional reporting by Wafa Amr in Ramallah and Jonathan Saul in Jerusalem