2008-07-22 16:51:13 GMT 2008-07-23 00:51:13 (Beijing Time) xinhuanet
JERUSALEM, July 22 (Xinhua) -- Israeli President Shimon Peres met with his Palestinian counterpart Mahmoud Abbas on Tuesday, in a bid to push ahead the sluggish Israeli-Palestinian peace process.
"I am full of confidence the problems will be resolved. I feel both sides believe there is no alternative to peace," Peres said after giving Abbas a red-carpet welcome in his official residence in Jerusalem, adding that "Israelis have a burning desire to reach peace with the Palestinians."
Abbas, who became the first Palestinian president to visit the Israeli president's residence, also expressed hope for peace, saying that "despite the passage of time, despite difficulties and obstacles, there is an end to this long conflict."
Details of the tete-a-tete meeting have not been released, while a statement released Monday from Peres' office said the two leaders would discuss the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, the geo-political situation in the region, and the development and implementation of joint economic initiatives for strengthening the peace process.
Local daily Ha'aretz quoted senior Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat as saying before the meeting that Abbas would also seek Peres' help to halt "settlement expansion that is undermining peace talks."
Meanwhile, Peres intended to assure Abbas that Israel remains committed to the peace talks despite the political turmoil surrounding Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and his ruling Kadima party.
"Although things on our side are not the most stable, I want to make clear that the desire to achieve peace remains stable," Peres told Israel Radio ahead of the meeting.
The meeting comes amid the backdrop that little apparent achievement has been made in the peace talks between the two neighbors, although both sides have repeatedly stressed their commitment to reaching a comprehensive peace deal within 2008.
The peace process is further overshadowed by an ongoing corruption case against Olmert, who has been facing mounting calls for resignation since the fifth probe against him went public in May over suspicions that he took illicit money from an American businessman before assuming the premiership.
His ruling Kadima party is preparing for a primary in September, which would unseat the probes-laden leader.