HELD AL QUDS: Israeli and Palestinian leaders are due to meet in Jerusalem today (Thursday) to try and unblock newly-revived peace talks that have stalled over the issue of Israeli settlements, officials said.
"Prime Minister (Ehud) Olmert and president (Mahmud) Abbas will meet today at the prime minister’s residence" in Jerusalem, a senior Israeli government official was quoted as saying.
Palestinian senior negotiator Saeb Erakat confirmed that the meeting was set for today.
The two leaders will discuss the final status peace talks between the two sides, which were revived at a US conference in late November but that have stalled after just two sessions over the issue of Israeli settlements.
Olmert is expected to tell Abbas "that we’ll have plenty of disagreements along the way but we have to focus on the negotiations rather than obstacles that may come up," the Israeli government official said.
Palestinians have demanded that Israel halt all settlement activity. But since negotiations were relaunched at the US conference after nearly a seven-year hiatus, there have been two announcements of expansions of settlements in annexed east Jerusalem and occupied West Bank.
When they formally relaunched their talks at the US conference, the two sides pledged to uphold a four-year-old internationally drafted roadmap peace blueprint, which calls on Israel to freeze settlement activity and on Palestinians to improve security.