x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Olmert says peace deal closer than ever

Israel and the Palestinians "have never been this close" to a peace accord, the Israeli prime minister Ehud Olmert says.

The French president Nicolas Sarkozy (centre) welcomes the Palestinian Authority president Mahmoud Abbas (left) and the Israeli prime minister Ehud Olmert (right) at the Elysee palace.
The French president Nicolas Sarkozy (centre) welcomes the Palestinian Authority president Mahmoud Abbas (left) and the Israeli prime minister Ehud Olmert (right) at the Elysee palace.

PARIS // Israel and the Palestinians "have never been this close" to a peace accord, the Israeli prime minister Ehud Olmert said today following talks with the Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas in Paris. "We have never been as close to an accord as we are today," Mr Olmert said following the talks in the presence of the French president Nicolas Sarkozy. Mr Olmert and Mr Abbas are among 43 foreign leaders gathering in Paris for the launch of a new Union for the Mediterranean, which aims to boost co-operation in one of the world's most volatile regions.

"We are approaching the moment when we will have to make decisive choices," Olmert told a joint press conference with the French and Palestinian leaders. Both Mr Abbas and Mr Olmert called on Mr Sarkozy, as president of France, chairman of the European Union presidency and host of the new Mediterranean union, to take a front-seat role in steering peace negotiations. Mr Abbas said Mr Sarkozy's "friendship" with both Israelis and Palestinians "enables you to play an important role to help the peace process succeed in a few months".

"We have started an in-depth negotiation with Ehud Olmert and Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni," Mr Abbas said. "We will pursue this effort. We are quite serious." *AFP