The Israeli and Palestinian leaders resumed negotiations Monday, trying to push forward peace efforts after nearly two months marred by heavy Gaza Strip clashes and new Israeli plans to expand settlements. Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas held a three-hour meeting discussing Israeli settlements and gaps on the contentious issue were wide, a Palestinian negotiator said.
"The settlement activities occupied a large part of the negotiations," said Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat, who attended Monday's meeting. "The president (Abbas) showed documents, maps, and emphasized the necessity to stop the settlement expansion."
According to the AP, Israeli government spokesman Mark Regev said Monday's talks included meetings between negotiating teams as well as the one-on-one session between Olmert and Abbas. "Both leaders reiterated their commitment to the Annapolis process and to reaching a historic agreement by the end of the year," Regev said. "Both sides today raised concerns, but they agreed that the negotiations will go on." According to him, the Palestinians discussed Israeli settlement construction and humanitarian issues in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
Erekat said Olmert also gave tentative approval to Abbas' request to grant West Bank residency to 10,000 Palestinians who now have expired visas.