Prime Minister Sharon said at a press appearance before the talks, ”We are before a new opportunity for the possibility for a better future for both peoples.”
“A future full of opportunities and hope is today closer than in the past.”
Prime Minister Abbas thanked the American, European and Arab backers of the peace plan, saying it was time for Israelis and Palestinians to “put the past behind us,” the Associated Press reported.
The meeting took place after the three main Palestinian militant groups announced a three-month halt to attacks on Israeli targets, and as Israeli troops begin to withdraw from parts of the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
Despite continuing sporadic violence, both sides have pledged to move forward with the road map.
Sharon — who has recently given Palestinian leaders some leeway in their efforts to deal with militant groups — said Tuesday that peace was impossible if terrorism continues. He is expected to press Abbas for increased security in Palestinian areas and for a crackdown on militants.
Abbas will reportedly try to win the release of some Palestinian prisoners and ask that Sharon restrict Israelis from visiting some Palestinian holy sites, according to wire reports.
Sharon has asked Israeli security officials to prepare a list of prisoners who could be released, according to the Associated Press. He has said, however, that Palestinians involved in killings cannot be freed.
The two leaders are also scheduled to discuss how to reconvene joint committees on security and economic issues.
Tuesday’s meeting was the third between the two leaders since Abbas took office two months ago. A wave of severe violence from both the Israeli and Palestinian sides had stalled the peace plan’s progress in recent weeks.