Olmert courts Abbas over construction dispute

Ehud Olmert tried to persuade Mahmoud Abbas to press ahead with peacemaking, despite a dispute in Jerusalem.

The Israeli prime minister hosted the Palestinian Authority president in Jerusalem on Thursday for talks that were overshadowed by Palestinian ire at the building of more than 300 new homes in Har Homa, a neighborhood in eastern Jerusalem.

Palestinians consider Har Homa to be part of West Bank land where they plan to build their state, while Israel says it is within Jerusalem’s city limits and therefore not up for negotiation. Har Homa is built on land Israel captured during the 1967 Six-Day War and subsequently annexed.

The dispute over Har Homa has dogged efforts to revive bilateral negotiations following last month’s Annapolis, Md., peace conference.

Israeli officials said Olmert assured Abbas no more West Bank settlements would be built and that he wants to press ahead with constructive talks. But it was not immediately clear if the Israeli prime minister relented on the Har Homa issue, or what Abbas’ response to his appeal was.

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