( dpa ) - Israel said Friday that it would begin actual peace negotiations with the Palestinians next week.
Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas instructed their respective negotiators, Tzipi Livni and Ahmed Qureia, "to immediately start talks on all the core issues," Olmert's spokesman Mark Regev told journalists in Jerusalem, briefing them on the outcome of Bush's visit.
"I expect these talks to start in the coming days."
Regev welcomed Bush's statement Thursday, in which the US president summed up his talks in Israel and the West Bank by saying a "peace agreement should happen, and can happen, by the end of this year."
Bush had also called for an "an end to the occupation that began in 1967" and said the establishment of a Palestinian state was "long overdue," but also expressed strong support for Israel's security.
And he backed Israel's wish to keep its main settlement blocs in the West Bank when he said the peace deal should "reflect current realities." Any changes to borders should be "mutually agreed," he stressed however.
Bush's statement "is acceptable by the Israeli side. We view the statement positively," Regev said.
"We believe it is possible to achieve by the end this year, by the end of 2008, a historic agreement with the Palestinians," he said, adding that meant "an agreement that outlines the framework, the structure, the vision for a for a future Palestinian state."
Relating to Olmert's talks with Bush on Iran, he said, "We came out with the understanding that both the US and Israel are on the same page."
"We cannot accept a nuclear armed Iran."