I'm ready to compromise on territory, says Olmert

LONDON (AFP) - Israel Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said in an interview Friday he was willing to "dramatically" compromise on territorial issues in negotiations with Palestinian leaders. Speaking to the BBC, Olmert said he was also prepared to compromise in negotiations with Syria, and denied that the talks were a way to deflect attention from his domestic struggles. "I am telling you now, I am prepared to compromise very seriously," Olmert told the broadcaster. "I am prepared to compromise on territorial issues dramatically. They will also have to compromise on territorial issues, it's not a one-way process." On talks with Syria, which Defence Minister Ehud Barak has described as "preliminary contacts, not yet negotiations," Olmert said he was "prepared to compromise" despite the "historic differences and some issues which must be resolved." His comments came as a fragile truce, which came into force in the Gaza Strip Thursday, entered its second day on Friday amid scepticism over how long the Egyptian-brokered deal between Israel and the Islamist Hamas movement would hold. The six-month truce is the first since the Islamists seized the impoverished Palestinian territory just over a year ago, triggering a crippling Israeli blockade. "Hamas is determined to respect the truce and guarantee its success," its spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri said after the ceasefire took hold Thursday. Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's spokesman Mark Regev said the Jewish state "will respect all the commitments it made." As the truce went into effect, Olmert's office announced the premier will travel to Egypt next Tuesday for talks with President Hosni Mubarak. The deal also entails a gradual easing of Israel's blockade of the overcrowded strip of land where most of the 1.5 million population depend on outside aid. Israeli authorities said this should start on Sunday with an increase of goods allowed into the Palestinian enclave. The deal was concluded after months of indirect negotiations between Hamas and Israel, which had been mulling a wider military offensive in Gaza in a bid to halt rocket fire. Israel made it clear the Rafah crossing between Gaza and Egypt, the territory's only one that bypasses the Jewish state, would be reopened only if Shalit is released, the Ynet news website said.

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