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Israeli-Palestinian Summit Meeting Set for Sunday


Israeli and Palestinian leaders will hold a summit meeting on Sunday. As Robert Berger reports from VOA's Jerusalem bureau, it is the most serious effort to establish a dialogue since the Islamic militant group Hamas won Palestinian elections over a year ago.

The upcoming summit will be the second in three weeks between Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas. The meeting is taking place despite Israel's disappointment that President Abbas is joining a national unity government with Hamas, a group that seeks the destruction of the Jewish state.

Mr. Olmert says it is important to talk to Palestinian moderates like Mr. Abbas, who is also known as Abu Mazen.

"I will not cut my contacts with Abu Mazen. I will continue to maintain the bilateral track," he said. "I will meet with Abu Mazen, hoping to create the necessary environment that will be helpful for the relations between us and them."

However, Israel is not willing to open formal peace talks as long as Hamas refuses to renounce violence and recognize the Jewish state. Therefore, the summit will focus on humanitarian issues.

"We want to contribute to the quality of life of the Palestinian people living in Gaza and in the West Bank in cooperation with Abu Mazen," he said.

Mr. Abbas wants to go beyond humanitarian issues and open talks on a final peace agreement and the creation of a Palestinian state.

Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat says it is time " move to a realistic political track, to move from words to deeds because creating the political horizons is the most important thing for Palestinians and Israelis in the region."

Erekat said the meeting is "very important" but added that he is not going to "exaggerate expectations."