Ehud Olmert and Mahmoud Abbas today authorized negotiations on the most contentious issues in the way of Israeli-Palestinian peace, Reuters reports. The move comes a day before President Bush's visit to the region begins. The two leaders approved talks on so-called final-status issues such as state borders, the future of Jerusalem, and the fate of Palestinian refugees.
The talks were supposed to under way by now in the wake of last fall's peace conference in Maryland, but disagreement over the construction of new Israeli settlements held them up. Both sides wanted to show progress before the arrival of Bush, who said at a White House press conference that he plans to call on the Palestinians to "help this vision become a reality."