JERUSALEM (Reuters) – Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert plans to meet Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas as early as Sunday, before a unity government with Hamas is formed, officials said on Tuesday.
Israel has vowed to boycott the unity government between Abbas’s Fatah faction and the Hamas movement unless it recognizes Israel, renounces violence and accepts interim peace deals as demanded by the Quartet of Middle East mediators.
The unity government deal, signed last month in Mecca, Saudi Arabia, contains a vague promise to “respect” previous Israeli-Palestinian pacts. But it does not commit the incoming government to abide by those pacts, nor to recognize Israel and renounce violence.
Abbas and Olmert held a three-way summit last month with U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice that was overshadowed by differences over the power sharing deal.
The Maariv newspaper said the new meeting was expected to take place in Jerusalem on Sunday but may slip a few days.
Israeli officials said the meeting was expected early next week but declined to give a date.
They said Olmert would use the meeting to press Abbas to meet the demands of the Quartet — the United States, European Union, Russia and the United Nations.
“We are continuing the preparations and there is no specific date (set) for the meeting yet,” said senior Abbas aide Saeb Erekat.
Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh of Hamas said on Monday the unity government would not be announced before the end of next week.
Haniyeh and Abbas have so far failed to agree on who would take the helm of the Interior Ministry, which is in charge of the security forces, officials said.
Rice is expected to return to the region for separate talks with Olmert and Abbas later this month, Israeli officials said.