Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Olmert meets British Foreign Secretary for talks on peace process

By Haaretz Staff

Prime Minister Ehud Olmert met with British Foreign Secretary Margaret Beckett in Jerusalem on Wednesday, to discuss restarting the Middle East peace process, as well as a range of bilateral affairs.

Beckett arrived in Israel on Monday evening to gauge the prospects for reviving peace talks, saying she was optimistic despite persistent Palestinian factional warfare.

"I am very much focused on what the practical steps are that can be taken to help move forward and whether there is more that we, the U.K. and European Union could be doing," Beckett said, on her first visit to Israel since replacing Jack Straw in May 2006.

"It's always a difficult time... but the underlying reality that it is to the benefit of all that there should be peace is recognized - however unwillingly - by all the major players."

Beckett met Tuesday with Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, Defense Minister Amir Peretz and other senior officials.

She is also set to hold talks with Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas during her visit. She will be pushing hard for the revival of the internationally brokered road map, but will not break from the international policy of boycotting Hamas, which controls the Palestinian parliament.

The international community imposed sanctions on the Palestinian government in the wake of the Hamas parliamentary victory in January 2006, due to the militant group's refusal to renounce violence, recognize Israel or abide by previous interim peace deals.

"To govern one has to shoulder responsibilities and while they are not prepared to shoulder the responsibilities that come with government, the international community will take the view that they cannot deal directly with Hamas," Beckett said.

Beckett was also scheduled to visit the Yad Vashem Holocaust museum and the Old City of Jerusalem.

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