JERUSALEM Israel has resumed talks with the Palestinian Authority on security cooperation, an Israeli official said on Tuesday about a move designed to bolster Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas after Hamas's Gaza takeover.
"We had the first meetings between security professionals yesterday (Monday)," said Miri Eisin, a spokeswoman for Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert.
"They met about how to coordinate. This gives us an opportunity," she said. "In this sense, we're seeing for the first time in many years direct cooperation and coordination between Israel and the Palestinian Authority."
There was no immediate Palestinian comment on the meeting, which appeared to be an initial step towards giving forces loyal to Abbas greater freedom of action to rein in Hamas militants in the occupied West Bank without fear of Israeli interference.
Israel and the Palestinian Authority largely broke off formal security cooperation, which included joint patrols, after a Palestinian uprising began in 2000.
Israel suspended all security coordination with the Palestinians in April 2006 and severed contacts with the Palestinian government when Hamas came to power in a January 2006 parliamentary election.
Olmert pledged to strengthen ties with Abbas following the violent takeover last month of the Gaza Strip by Hamas Islamists who routed the Palestinian leader's Fatah movement in a civil war in the coastal territory.
Abbas formed an emergency government shorn of Hamas after Gaza was taken over by the militant group, which has rejected Western demands to recognize Israel, renounce violence and accept existing Israeli-Palestinian interim peace agreements.
"For Israel, it's important that the Palestinian government can take control of their own areas. They are interested in doing so," Eisin said.
"It's good for them, it's good for the stability in all of the area. We hope to see more progress in the upcoming weeks and days."
Fatah is the dominant Palestinian faction in the West Bank, where Israel still maintains dozens of military checkpoints restricting Palestinian movement.
Eisin said Israel and Palestinian officials had also been discussing the possible deployment in the West Bank of the Jordan-based Badr Brigades, a pro-Fatah force that could help Abbas rein in Hamas militants.