Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas will seek Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's undertaking to begin drafting a proposed agreement on statehood principles during talks today, Abbas aides said.
The aides said Olmert and Abbas, who will meet in Jerusalem, have made some progress in recent talks towards narrowing differences over the nature of a future Palestinian state ahead of a US-sponsored conference expected in November.
But Israeli officials said differences remained over the scope of any agreement - Olmert wants to keep the statehood principles vague while Abbas wants them to be detailed.
Israeli and Palestinian officials have sent mixed messages about the extent of discussions so far over final status issues that include Jerusalem, borders, Palestinian refugees and Jewish settlements.
"Some progress has been achieved between the two leaders on some final status issues," a senior Palestinian official who insisted on anonymity. He declined to give details.
"But nothing has been put in writing so far and we expect them to agree in Monday's meeting to ask joint committees to start drafting points of agreement," the official said.
Olmert's spokesman, David Baker, said drafting has not yet started. "Nothing is at a drafting stage at this point. We're hoping for continued progress with the Palestinians," he said.
Another senior Abbas aide Nimer Hammad said the Palestinians hoped an agreement with the Israelis would include details on how final status issues would be resolved.
"The Palestinians hope that during Monday's meeting the two leaders will agree to start drafting the points of agreement to pave the way for finalizing a framework agreement on final status issues," he said.
Abbas has been pushing in talks with Olmert for an explicit "framework agreement" with a timeline for implementation on final status issues.
Olmert is seeking a more broadbrush "declaration of principles" and said last week he was not sure the two leaders would be able to reach a deal on statehood principles ahead of the conference.
Source: China Daily/agencies