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Israel, Palestine to discuss core issues on Monday
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United States President George W. Bush (L) speaks while Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas looks on during their joint news conference held in the West Bank town of Ramallah, Jan. 10, 2008. Bush said that he believes an Israeli-Palestinian peace treaty will be signed before he leaves office early next year.

Heads of Israeli and Palestinian negotiation teams, Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni and chief Palestinian negotiator Ahmed Qurei, will meet on Monday to begin talks on final-status issues of the conflict, local daily Ha'aretz reported on Sunday.

Israeli officials confirmed that the first meeting on final-status issues between the Israelis and the Palestinians would be held on Monday and would be attended only by the negotiation teams' heads.

So-called final-status issues are the thorniest disputes between Israel and the Palestinians, which included control of Jerusalem, Palestinian borders, Israel's settlements in the West Bank, Palestinian refugees, security and water resources.

Speaking in the West Bank city of Ramallah, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas announced the decision, saying that "If we reach an agreement on these issues, we could say that there is an agreement."

The talks are expected to be held according to a "three-level" model. First, Livni and Qurei will discuss the core issues in a direct dialogue; The negotiation teams will then discuss the issues in details; In case of a disagreement, Abbas and Olmert will intervene, according to the daily.

Abbas' announcement came three days after President George W. Bush ended a three-day visit to Israel and the Palestinian territories on Friday.

Bush, who will leave the White House in January of 2009, said during the visit that Israel and the Palestinians would reach an agreement by the end of 2008, as they had agreed to do at the Annapolis peace conference in November.

(Xinhua News Agency January 14, 2008)

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