Ehud Olmert was circumspect about whether Israel and the Palestinians can reach a peace accord in 2008.
The Israeli prime minister briefed his Cabinet Sunday about his talks with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas in Annapolis, Md., sounding upbeat but cautious.
“There is no doubt that this was a positive meeting that will enable the negotiations process between us and the Palestinians to move forward,” Olmert said. “An effort will be made to hold accelerated negotiations in the hope that it will be possible to conclude them in 2008. However, there is no commitment to a specific timetable regarding these negotiations.”
Olmert and Abbas have pledged to attempt to reach a peace accord by the end of next year, when U.S. President George W. Bush leaves office.
Olmert further reaffirmed that any progress in peace talks would be predicated on the Palestinians cracking down on terrorist groups, as required by the 2003 “road map” plan.
Noting the turnout of Arab League ministers at Annapolis, Olmert added, “One of the main issues on the meeting’s agenda was the need for Arab countries to normalize relations with the State of Israel, the importance of which was recognized not as a future matter but which must begin right now.”