JERUSALEM – Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert will meet Wednesday in Jerusalem, officials on both sides said Tuesday.
The meeting will be the first between the two since Olmert, under a cloud of corruption charges, announced he would step down after his Kadima Party selects a new leader in September. The fight among Olmert's rivals to replace him and the possibility of national elections in Israel is likely to complicate the attempt to strike a deal between the sides.
Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat and Olmert's office confirmed the leaders would meet Wednesday at Olmert's Jerusalem residence.
Olmert and Abbas have been holding regular meetings since Israel and the Palestinians launched new peace negotiations at a U.S.-sponsored conference late last year.
But even before Olmert announced his intention to resign last week, the sides had been backing away from their earlier stated goal of signing a peace agreement by year's end.
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said during a visit to Tunisia last month that the two sides had not agreed on any of the core issues that separate them, such as the borders of a future Palestinian state and the fate of Jerusalem. Olmert said last week that no deal on Jerusalem, considered the thorniest point of contention, was likely to be reached this year.
Last week, seeking to preserve some momentum in the talks, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice hosted top Israeli and Palestinian negotiators in Washington. A State Department spokesman said the Bush administration is still pursuing a wide-ranging deal between Israel and the Palestinians this year and is not ruling out another Mideast summit or U.S.-backed initiative before its term ends.