Abbas, Olmert fail to agree on settlement construction freeze
Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas on Thursday held their first summit since they agreed last month to renew peace talks, seeking to resolve a dispute over planned Israeli construction in occupied east Jerusalem. According to AFP, Olmert hosted Abbas at his Jerusalem residence for around two hours.
Abbas was demanding a freeze on the project, but the Israeli leader insisted it will go on. "The meeting will focus on the need to halt settlements in Palestinian territory," Abbas spokesman Nabil Abu Rudeina told AFP ahead of the meeting. He added that "up to now, negotiations have been stalled because of Israel.
"Peace needs a real push forward," he said. "Israel must take serious measures to inspire confidence in the Palestinian people and the Arab world."
Meanwhile, a State Department spokesman said Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice called both Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and urged them to make progress toward an agreement.
The summit, which was held Thursday afternoon, was the first since the two sides re-launched official peace talks at a U.S.-sponsored conference last month. According to the AP, Israel announced last month that it was building 307 new apartments in east Jerusalem.