TEL AVIV, May 5 (RIA Novosti) - Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert met on Monday in Jerusalem to discuss Jewish settlements and military roadblocks in the West Bank.
David Baker, a spokesman for the Israeli government, said that during the meeting, which was held behind closed doors, the parties achieved some progress and agreed to continue negotiations.
"The participants of the summit discussed progress reached at the previous meetings and agreed to maintain it and develop along a further course towards peace. Both leaders understand that the process will continue," Baker said.
But the Israeli official declined to name any specific issues, on which progress was made.
The meeting came hours after U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice visited the region in an attempt to keep the faltering talks going.
Rice criticized on Sunday the ongoing Israeli construction of settlements in occupied Palestinian territories and urged Tel Aviv to ease travel restrictions for Palestinians.
Speaking after talks with Abbas in Ramallah, Rice said the expansion of Israeli settlements in the West Bank and east Jerusalem, which the Palestinians regard as part of their future state, was "particularly problematic to the atmosphere of trust that is needed."
Rice, however, said an Israeli-Palestinian peace deal this year was still possible and praised the "seriousness and depth" of talks.
The Israelis and Palestinians pledged at a U.S.-hosted Middle East conference last November to resume peace talks, draft a settlement plan by late 2008 and come to terms on the form of a future independent Palestinian state.
But their talks have made little tangible progress amid ongoing violence and Israeli construction. Negotiations came to a temporary halt in March following a devastating Israeli offensive in the Gaza Strip, which killed 120 Palestinians, mostly civilians. Israel said the raid was in response to attacks by militants in the enclave, which was seized from Abbas' Fatah movement by the hard-line Hamas in June.
Abbas has also accused Tel Aviv of refusing to remove numerous checkpoints in the West Bank, which he said had damaged the Palestinian economy.
He also said that nothing had been put down in writing regarding a future peace deal with Israel, but added that talks were continuing and an agreement could be signed by the end of this year.