Olmert, Abbas to Meet Monday on 'Agreement of Principles'

PM, PA chair to discuss core issues of future negotiations, greater security cooperation in West Bank.

Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas are scheduled to meet Monday in Jericho, Palestinian sources told Haaretz.

The two leaders are expected to discuss the formulation of an agreement of principles between Israel and the Palestinians, ahead of the international peace conference to be held in Washington in November, the sources said.

According to a government official in Jerusalem, Olmert and Abbas "will try to see how they can progress and where they want to get to before November."

Aides to the two leaders are scheduled to meet on Sunday to discuss Monday's agenda.

The Palestinians said that during Monday's meeting, Abbas will seek to determine the extent of Israel's willingness to advance the peace process. The two will also discuss the core final status issues in the negotiations - refugees, Jerusalem and borders.

An Israeli official said that Israel would not announce gestures to the Palestinians ahead of tomorrow's meeting, but that a number of ongoing issues would be raised there. "It is certainly possible" that Israel would grant a number of Palestinian requests, the source said.

Olmert is not expected to agree to transfer responsibility for security in several West Bank towns to the Palestinians, and reportedly is seeking to wait until Abbas' security forces are stronger.

The two leaders also are expected to discuss security cooperation in the West Bank, as well as the removal of roadblocks and broadening of the immunity of Fatah operatives from arrest. The establishment of an Israeli-Palestinian economic council also is likely to be on the agenda, along with advancing the construction of Palestinian institutions, with assistance from Tony Blair, the envoy from the Quartet of Mideast mediators.

Abbas' associates said they wanted to come to Washington with an agreement they defined as "more than a framework agreement but less than a detailed final status agreement."

The Palestinian sources also said the sides sought to come to the international summit with a general timetable for the framework agreement. "It's clear to everyone what the final status agreement will be," a Palestinian source said. "Therefore, what remains now is mainly to agree on the small details. Arriving at an implementation timetable by November certainly is an attainable goal."

The Palestinian daily Al-Ayyam reported that Abbas intends to hold a series of meetings with Olmert before the November summit.

Palestinian sources said the Americans had given the meetings a green light, in part due to pressure by Arab countries on U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, to present a real diplomatic achievement at the international conference.

"The Americans know that the summit has to have real results," a source close to Abbas said.

According to Al-Ayyam, Rice asked both Olmert and Abbas to quicken and intensify their talks in the coming weeks, and that they be held between the two leaders, not their subordinates. She made her request while visiting the region last week.

Palestinian sources told Al-Ayyam that after an agreement was reached, Abbas would hold early presidential and parliamentary elections in the PA, and would place the agreement at the center of his electoral platform.