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Qurei Warns Against Forcing Settlement on Palestinians - Roed-Larsen to Security Council: There’s a ‘Narrow Window of Opportunity’(Palestine Media Center- (PMC) 12/13/03) Source: http://www.palestine-pmc.com/details.asp?cat=1&id=1142
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The Palestine National Authority (PNA) and Israel have expressed warm desire to resume peace talks amid US, UN and Egyptian encouragement as US President Bush urged the Jewish state to avoid measures that could block a Palestinian state, while urging Palestinians to “reject the tired old policy of the past,” but PNA Prime Minister Ahmad Qurei warned Israeli counterpart Ariel Sharon against forcing “a settlement on us” by unilateral steps.
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“We are dying to talk to you,” Qurei said in an interview published in the Israeli daily Maariv. "I believe that if we returned to the negotiating table, I could reach an agreement with Sharon.”
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Time was running out for Palestinians and Israelis to reach a final peace agreement, he warned. “We have no more time, we cannot have (anymore) interim agreements,” he said.
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Saying that a long-awaited summit meeting with his Israeli counterpart was possible “within days,” Qurei stressed that he was expecting “results” from such an encounter.
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“I don´t want to come out of the meeting with a picture,” he told the paper. “I want to come out with results. I want a positive message for both the Palestinians and the Israelis. I believe that the meeting will take place within days.”
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However, Qurei warned Israeli counterpart Ariel Sharon against forcing “a settlement on us.”
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“It would be a bad mistake to force a settlement on us,” Qurei said. “We would not accept it. The world would not accept it.”
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He also warned Sharon against trying to unilaterally draw the borders of a Palestinian state without negotiations by building the Israeli Apartheid Wall on Palestinian territory, which the Jewish state occupied in 1967.
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“You cannot build a fence on our land, put us into coops like chickens and hope for the best,” Qurei said Friday. “It will cause a disaster.”
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“If you want a fence, fine. Build it on the Green Line,” said Qurei, referring to the frontier between Israel and the West Bank before the 1967 war.
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The Apartheid Wall “will kill the (peace) process. It will kill anyone who speaks of peace. ... Now there is relative quiet. But the terror will start anew. The barrier can´t prevent it,” Qurie said in a separate interview with the Israeli Yedioth Ahronoth on Friday.
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Israel Calls for Immediate Resumption of Talks
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The Israeli side also showed similar desire to resume negotiations with Palestinian side.
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Israeli Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom said he and the US Secretary of State Colin Powell agreed during a meeting in Washington Friday that that Israelis and the Palestinians should begin talks immediately without preconditions.
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Shalom called for the immediate resumption of peace talks with Palestinians and said the Jewish state would unveil new plans to promote dialogue next week, he told Israeli public radio from Washington.
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“We are still waiting for the willingness of the Palestinians to have the summit between Prime Minister Sharon and Abu Ala and we hope that it will take place in the near future,” he said.
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Qurei’s remarks to Israeli newspapers Yedioth Ahronoth and Maariv came amid increasing talk by Israeli PM Sharon about unilateral Israeli moves and amid US, UN and Egyptian optimistic expectations over the resumption of Palestinian–Israeli peace talks.
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Bush: Don’t Block a Palestinian State
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On Friday, US President George W. Bush urged Israel to avoid measures that could block a Palestinian state and Palestinians to “reject the tired old policy of the past.”
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“It´s in Israel´s interest there be a Palestinian state,” Bush said, adding, “It´s in the poor, suffering Palestinian people´s interest there be a Palestinian state.”
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But the first step toward peace in the Middle East is for “all parties to fight off terror to stop the few from destroying the hopes of the many,” he said.
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Separately and in an unusually blunt criticism of a close ally, US deputy assistant secretary of state and Bush administration envoy to the Middle East David Satterfield said Thursday in Rome that Israel had “done too little for far too long” to foster peace negotiations with the PNA.
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He was speaking at a Palestinian donors’ conference.
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Roed-Larsen Sees a ‘Narrow Window of Opportunity’
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Meanwhile, the UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Process Terje Roed-Larsen briefed the UN Security Council in New York Friday that a narrow window of opportunity has opened to re-start the Middle East peace process.
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However, Roed-Larsen warned that the situation remains fragile and the only viable solution is to follow the “roadmap” peace plan, which the UN council endorsed in resolution 1515 recently.
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He said a step-by-step approach by the Israelis and the Palestinians, combined with confidence-building measures, is essential if the window of opportunity is not to be wasted.
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The “roadmap” is a peace plan that calls for parallel and reciprocal steps leading to Israel and Palestine living side-by-side in peace and security by 2005.
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Roed-Larsen said both sides need the strong support of the international community, led by the diplomatic Quartet of the European Union, the Russian Federation, the United Nations and the United States.
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But he said the opportunity to get the peace process back on track follows the willingness of the Palestinian and Israeli premiers Qurei and Sharon to resume talks.
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Roed-Larsen concluded his briefing by telling the Security Council that if this opportunity is not seized, “the cost could be devastating. The current hopes for peace among the peoples could be replaced by the creeping paralysis of a hopeless outlook by a greater hardening of positions and a deepening of the spiral of violence.”
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Egypt Exerts ‘Intensive Efforts’
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In Cairo, Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak told the official al-Ahram daily Friday that “intensive efforts” are underway to re-launch talks between Palestinians and Israelis on the “roadmap.”
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He told al-Ahram daily that Cairo, which had recalled its ambassador to Israel, could send the envoy back if the Palestinians needed help.
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“Intensive efforts are being made to restart Israeli-Palestinian negotiations aimed at implementing the roadmap,” Mubarak said.
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In separate telephone calls to Palestinian President Yasser Arafat and PNA premier Qurei, Mubarak said Egypt was working for a resumption of the talks aimed at “a clear plan and mutual commitments by both parties,” the paper quoted him as saying.
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Mubarak also spoke with the Israelis, telling them Egypt was seeking “positive steps towards easing the blockade imposed on the Palestinians and concrete policies aimed at building confidence” between the two peoples, Al-Ahram said.
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On Wednesday, Mubarak met with Israeli Foreign Minister Shalom in Geneva on the fringes of a UN meeting. It was the first time the Egyptian leader had met a senior Israeli official since August 2002. (PMC © 12/13/03)
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