JERUSALEM – Israel's prime minister-designate took a break from her efforts to form a new government Tuesday to meet with the chief Palestinian peace negotiator, signaling she will keep negotiations going despite the country's political uncertainty.
Tzipi Livni and the Palestinian negotiator, Ahmed Qureia, have met regularly since peace talks were formally relaunched at a U.S.-hosted summit last November. But Tuesday's talks in Jerusalem were the first since Livni last week was elected head of the ruling Kadima Party, replacing Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, who is being forced from office by a corruption scandal.
Qureia said that Livni assured him she would continue the negotiations throughout the coalition-building process.
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"She stressed that she'll continue the peace process, and that if she forms the new Israeli government, there will be no conditions or obstacles to continue the peace process," Qureia told The Associated Press.
Livni did not comment on the meeting.
Late Monday, Israeli President Shimon Peres formally gave Livni the task of putting together a new coalition government — a painstaking process that could take up to six weeks.
With U.S. prodding, Israel and the Palestinians set a year-end target for reaching a final peace accord that would end six decades of hostilities.
Despite months of negotiations, there have been no apparent breakthroughs, and the sides remain at odds over key issues like the final borders between Israel and a future Palestinian state, the competing claims to Jerusalem and the fate of millions of Palestinian refugees.
Tuesday's meeting came a day after a Palestinian resident of Jerusalem plowed his car into a crowd of soldiers at a busy intersection, wounding 19 people in what Israeli officials called a politically motivated attack. A soldier at the scene killed the man on the spot.
Israeli police beefed up patrols around the city on Tuesday.
Monday night's attack was the third time in as many months that a Palestinian resident of Jerusalem used a vehicle as a weapon against Israelis.