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Rice Holds Talks With Olmert, Abbas

Palestinian President Abbas (left) with Secretary Rice (center) and Israeli Prime Minister Olmert in Jerusalem today (epa) February 19, 2007 (RFE/RL) -- U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has held three-way talks in Jerusalem with the Israeli and Palestinian leaders in a bid to help revive the Middle East peace process.

Today's talks were the first ever between Rice, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, and Palestinian President Mahmud Abbas.

"All three of us affirmed our commitment to a two-state solution, agreed that a Palestinian state cannot be born of violence and terror, and reiterated our acceptance of previous agreements and obligations, including the road map," Rice told journalists following the meeting.

She reported no progress in restarting peace talks. But she did say that Olmert and Abbas have agreed to meet again and that she also plans to return to the region soon.

"The president and prime minister agreed that they would meet together again soon," Rice said. "They reiterated their desire for American participation and leadership in facilitating efforts to overcome obstacles, rally regional and international support, and move forward toward peace."

Rice had sought to keep expectations about today's meeting low, describing the planned talks as simply "discussions."

For his part, Olmert said on February 18 that Israel and the United States have agreed not to cooperate with the planned new Palestinian unity government unless it recognizes Israel's right to exist.

"A Palestinian government that does not accept the Quartet's conditions cannot receive recognition, and there will not be cooperation with it," Olmert told an Israel cabinet meeting. "I spoke about this on Friday with the president of the United States, and I can tell you the Israeli and U.S. positions are completely identical. There is a full agreement and an understanding with regards to the status of a Palestinian government if it turns out that it does not accept the Quartet's conditions as a basis for further activity in the future."

The power-sharing deal was reached in Mecca earlier this month by Abbas's moderate Fatah movement and Hamas, which says it seeks Israel's destruction.

Rice has acknowledged the deal doesn't appear to meet the international conditions set by the Quartet of Mideast negotiators -- the United States, the European Union, the UN, and Russia.