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Israeli-Palestinian Summit Yields Little Progress


Israeli and Palestinian leaders have held a summit meeting in Jerusalem. As Robert Berger reports from VOA's Jerusalem bureau, the talks highlighted the deep differences between the two sides and made little progress toward finding common ground.

Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas met for more than two hours - their second summit in just three weeks. But they failed to achieve a breakthrough on substantive issues, such as reviving peace talks on the creation of a Palestinian state.

The summit was overshadowed by Mr. Abbas' decision to form a unity government with Hamas, the ruling Islamic militant group that seeks Israel's destruction.

Mr. Olmert made it clear to Mr. Abbas that Israel would not deal with the new government unless it meets conditions set down by the Quartet of Mideast mediators--the United States, European Union, United Nations and Russia. The Quartet has demanded that Hamas renounce violence, recognize Israel and accept previous peace agreements.

Israeli Cabinet Minister Yitzhak Herzog.

"We are insistent on the three prerequisites of the Quartet," said Yitzhak Herzog. "They are natural, they are just, they are fair. And we must make sure that they are implemented."

Hamas has only agreed to respect previous agreements, but it refuses to renounce violence and recognize Israel.

A Palestinian negotiator described the summit as "very difficult." Palestinian analyst Wadia Abu Nasser says Israel should strengthen Mr. Abbas by easing restrictions on the Palestinians, instead of weakening him with demands he cannot meet.

"The question is why Abbas is so weak, and I believe that part of the answer is in Israel, not in the Palestinian arena," said Wadia Abu Nasser.

Prime Minister Olmert did offer at least one goodwill gesture. He agreed to increase the flow of goods into the impoverished Gaza Strip by increasing the hours of operation at a major border crossing.

The two leaders decided to continue the dialogue and meet again.

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