In their much anticipated meeting Saturday evening, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas agreed on a series of steps which would set the conditions for renewed negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians, as well as strengthening Abbas’ position in relation to Hamas.
The issues included financial assistance, humanitarian assistance, and security issues. A senior official said, however, that the issue of a deal to release Gilad Shalit was not discussed in order not to undermine other efforts being made to reach a deal.
One of the most significant steps agreed upon during the meeting was the release of $100 million in taxes to Abbas after all Palestinian funds were frozen by Israel after Hamas came into power almost a year ago. In addition, the two discussed easing of restrictions on passage of goods from Gaza, allowing for the passage of 400 trucks daily, both steps helping to ease the economic strife within Gaza.
On security issues, the two leaders agreed to consider expanding the ceasefire to the West Bank, however, Prime Minister Olmert expressed his concern over the continued fire of Kassam rockets from the Gaza Strip and said that Israel could not show restraint for long if the violations of the ceasefire continue
In addition, Olmert and Abbas agreed to immediately resume the operation of joint committees in order to deal with current issues such as security cooperation, economic and humanitarian issues, and prisoner and refugee issues.
One of the most significant decisions was to reestablish the work of the quadripartite security committee between Israel, the PA, Egypt and the US, which will discuss security issues such as the deployment of the Presidential Guard along the Philadelphi Corridor and in the northern Gaza Strip, maintaining the cessation of violence, advancing the future transfer of security responsibility over the Palestinian areas, and implementation of the arrangements that were previously agreed upon regarding Palestinian fugitives and deportees.
The two leaders emphasized the importance of direct and serious contact between them and decided to meet frequently, thus continuing the ongoing link between them, in order to advance current issues on the agenda.
Prime Minister Ehud Olmert spoke with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak Sunday morning and updated him on his meeting with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. The Prime Minister said that it was a very good meeting that could open the way to a better future. The Egyptian President replied that he ascribes great importance to the meeting and its positive results. The two men agreed to meet soon.
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