The US Secretary of State is talking up the prospects for a Middle East peace conference with claims that the Palestinians and Israelis have come a long way in resolving their conflict in recent months. Condoleezza Rice said after meetings with Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbbas that she was hopeful they would agree to a joint document ahead of the summit. But Rice said she did not think the document would include a timetable on resolving specific issues.
The Palestinians want the conference, which has yet to be organised, to deal with concrete proposals on peacemaking, but the Israeli leadership has indicated it is more interested in a declaration of principles. Olmert did, however, offer to release more Palestinian prisoners from Israeli jails in what appeared to be a confidence-boosting measure. Some analysts say Olmert is trying to build domestic support for the international conference. But others question his ability to win Israeli support for major concessions.