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Olmert, Abbas Meet to Discuss Gaza Crisis


Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas held two hours of talks Sunday in Jerusalem to discuss the situation in the Gaza Strip. VOA's Jim Teeple reports from Jerusalem.

Prime Minister Olmert and President Abbas did not comment following their meeting, but the situation in Gaza dominated their talks Sunday at Mr. Olmert's residence in Jerusalem.

Mr. Abbas has called on Israel and the international community to allow Palestinian Authority security forces to take control of the border crossing points in the Gaza Strip. He says that will ease the current crisis at the Rafah crossing point between Egypt and Gaza - and the crossing points between Gaza and Israel that have been closed by Israel because of Palestinian rocket attacks.

David Baker a spokesman for Mr. Olmert says, for now, Israel will not comment on Mr. Abbas' proposal, preferring to wait until Mr. Abbas holds talks with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak on Wednesday. Baker does say, in their talks on Sunday, both men agreed to work together to try and avoid a humanitarian crisis in Gaza.

"They discussed the need to prevent a humanitarian crisis in the Gaza Strip and both leaders committed themselves toward enabling the providing of humanitarian aid to the Gaza Strip," said Baker.

Speaking earlier Sunday, Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad, a close ally of Mr. Abbas, said his government wants to work with other Arab governments to find a solution to the crisis.

Fayyad says, with Arab support it should be possible to find a solution under which Palestinians will control all crossing points in Gaza, which he says would stop the suffering of the Palestinians in Gaza.

Hamas militants, who blew up the border wall at the Rafah crossing point last week, say they would welcome a Palestinian takeover of the Rafah crossing, and other crossings in Gaza, but they have rejected any international participation in the deal. Until the Hamas takeover of the Gaza Strip last June, European Union monitors staffed the Rafah crossing.

Mr. Abbas has ruled out any cooperation with Hamas on the border issue, until Hamas agrees to restore his authority in the Gaza Strip.