Olmert, Abbas: 'Deal' by Year's End

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CBNNews.com - JERUSALEM, Israel - Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Palestinian Authority (PA) President Mahmoud Abbas agreed to strike a deal by the end of year regardless of what's occurring on the ground.

On Monday, the two met for the first time in nearly two months to resume their bi-monthly meetings, with the goal of reaching a deal by the beginning of November 2008.

According to the prime minister's office, the two leaders intend to follow the same format as the negotiating teams, led by Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni and former PA Prime Minister Ahmed Qureia.

During Monday's meeting, the two sat in on the negotiating teams' meeting for two hours, followed by a one-hour session alone.

Abbas is slated to visit Washington and U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and US National Security Advisor Steve Hadley will return to the region following the Pesach (Passover) holiday later this month.

"Both leaders reiterated their commitment to the Annapolis process and to reaching a historic agreement by the end of the year," said the prime minister's spokesman, Mark Regev. "Both sides today raised concerns, but they agreed that the negotiations will go on," he said.

According to senior Palestinian official Saeb Erekat, Olmert agreed to grant residency to 10,000 Arabs in PA-controlled areas whose visas have expired.

Of the 54,000 Arabs to be given PA residence, 12,000 were already approved.

Following the outbreak of the second intifada (armed Palestinian uprising) in September 2000, Israel clamped down on immigration to cities in Judea and Samaria, which left thousands of Arabs without legal status.

Source: The Jerusalem Post

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