Israel resumes talks about talks (LONDON TIMES) From Ian MacKinnon in Jerusalem, ISRAEL 01/27/05)
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ISRAEL and the Palestinian Authority resumed diplomatic contacts
yesterday, after a two-week freeze, to pave the way for a summit of
The representatives failed to agree on an agenda, but will hold
further talks next week to prepare for the first meeting between
Ariel Sharon, the Israeli Prime Minister, and Mahmoud Abbas, the new
The summit, which could take place within two weeks, would be a sign
of a thaw in relations between the Israeli and Palestinian
leaderships at the end of a week of relative calm.
Initial optimism after Mr Abbas’s election victory was punctured when
six Israelis were killed in a bombing at the Karni terminal between
Israel and Gaza two weeks ago. Mr Sharon banned all contact between
Amid signs of hope — which have included the arrival of William
Burns, the US Assistant Secretary of State, for talks with Israeli
and Palestinian leaders — there were also indications of the delicacy
of the nascent peace.
A three-year-old Palestinian girl was killed at her home in Gaza when
Israeli troops fired in response to two Qassam rockets that were
launched at a Jewish settlement.
Undercover troops also killed a Palestinian militant in Qalqilya when
they opened fire on a car.
Palestinian police were preparing to deploy across southern Gaza
today to try to prevent the firing of the rockets after fruitful
talks between senior Palestinians and Israelis. Three thousand police
who fanned out in northern Gaza last week helped to preserve the
peace that led to yesterday’s negotiations.
Israeli security sources said that assassinations of Palestinian
militants had been put on hold — a key demand of Hamas and Islamic
Jihad — during five days of negotiations with Mr Abbas in Gaza that
were aimed at securing a ceasefire.
Yesterday’s discussions between Dov Weisglass, a special adviser to
Mr Sharon, and Saeb Erekat, a Palestinian minister, sought to hammer
out differences over the topics for consideration by the leaders.
“[The] meeting was conducted in a good and constructive atmosphere,”
Mr Erekat said. “We decided to meet next week to continue
preparations for the summit. No date has been set yet for the
But Hassan Abu Libdeh, the Palestinian Prime Minister’s chief of
staff, who was also part of the delegation, said: “The summit will be
held within two weeks if we finalise all the details in the meeting
that will be held next week.”
Israel is keen that the leaders should focus on security issues and
seek ways to end violence while the Palestinians wish to talk about
the West Bank separation barrier and the release of the 8,000
prisoners held in Israeli jails, another of Hamas and Islamic Jihad’s
But the talks about talks were a clear sign that Israel is impressed
with the efforts of Mr Abbas to bring calm.
Mr Abbas, better known as Abu Mazen, also told security chiefs to get
ready to assume control of four West Bank cities in as little as ten
days, when Israeli troops withdraw. (Copyright 2005 Times Newspapers
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