U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice met separately with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, before a summit Monday between the Israeli and Palestinian leaders. VOA's Jim Teeple reports from Jerusalem, Israel's prime minister says he and President Bush have agreed to boycott a new Palestinian government, if it does not recognize Israel.
Secretary Rice met with President Abbas for about two hours, but a news conference that was scheduled to follow their talks was canceled, and the participants left the meeting without making a comment.
Before their talks, Rice said the two would discuss the Palestinian power-sharing agreement between Mr. Abbas' Fatah faction and Hamas that is supposed to result in the formation of a unity government within several weeks. In brief remarks, she expressed hope that a summit between Mr. Abbas and Ehud Olmert on Monday might ease tensions.
"I hope that this meeting with the three of us will be an opportunity to examine the current situation, and to recommit to existing agreements, but also to begin to explore and probe the political and diplomatic horizon," said Rice. "And, I very much look forward to that meeting."
Secretary Rice has referred to her current trip as taking place in a complicated time, downplaying expectations of any breakthrough to revive Israeli-Palestinian peace efforts.
She comes to Israel and the Palestinian territories several days after Mr. Abbas and Hamas leaders agreed to form a unity government, but one led by Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh.
That agreement follows a Saudi-mediated power-sharing agreement between Hamas and Mr. Abbas' Fatah movement designed to end factional fighting and create a government that could bring an end to international sanctions on the Palestinian Authority, imposed because of the Hamas refusal to recognize Israel.
Speaking after his meeting with Rice, President Abbas said the new Palestinian government will be a topic of the discussions Monday with Mr. Olmert.
Mr. Abbas says the talks also will focus on trying to revive stalled Israeli-Palestinian peace talks, which he says should be a top priority. The Palestinian leader has said the new government should be given a chance, because it is vital to end factional fighting between his Fatah movement and Hamas.
Israeli officials say the emerging unity Palestinian government is unacceptable, because it does not meet the three conditions required by Israel and the so-called Middle East Peace Quartet for recognition. The Quartet is made up of the United States, the European Union, Russia and the United Nations.
Speaking Sunday, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said the new government must recognize Israel, renounce violence and respect past peace agreements.
Mr. Olmert says he and President Bush spoke by telephone, and agreed to boycott any new government that does not meet those demands.
Secretary Rice said Saturday that the new Palestinian government must meet international conditions for recognition, but no decision had been made yet about boycotting it, because the government has yet to be formed.