Palestinian president meets with Israeli defence minister

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas (left) and Israeli Defence Minister Benny Gantz discussed shaping security and economic situations in the West Bank and in Gaza. PHOTOS: REUTERS

RAMALLAH, WEST BANK (REUTERS) - Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas met with Israeli Defence Minister Benny Gantz in the West Bank city of Ramallah on Sunday (Aug 29), officials said.

It was the highest-level meeting between Mr Abbas and an Israeli minister to be made public since Israel's new government was formed in June.

Mr Gantz, who heads a centrist party, told Mr Abbas that Israel would take measures to strengthen the Palestinian economy, according to a statement from his office.

"They also discussed shaping the security and economic situations in the West Bank and in Gaza," the statement said."They agreed to continue communicating further on the issues that were raised during the meeting."

Mr Hussein Al Sheikh, a member of Mr Abbas' Fatah Central Committee, said the discussion included "all aspects" of Palestinian-Israeli relations.

Peace talks between the two sides collapsed in 2014, though Israel over the past year has reached normalisation agreements with a number of Arab countries, under US sponsorship.

Israel's new government includes a patchwork of parties spanning the far left to far right and includes for the first time a small Islamist faction.

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, who heads an ultranationalist party, opposes Palestinian statehood. But given the makeup of his coalition, any sensitive policy decisions on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict would be difficult.

The meeting in Ramallah came just a couple of days after Mr Bennett met with US President Joe Biden in the White House, during which Mr Biden reiterated support for a two-state solution.

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