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Israel resumes talks about talks (LONDON TIMES) From Ian MacKinnon in Jerusalem, ISRAEL 01/27/05)Source: http://www.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,251-1457775,00.html LONDON TIMES LONDON TIMES Articles-Index-TopPublishers-Index-Top
ISRAEL and the Palestinian Authority resumed diplomatic contacts yesterday, after a two-week freeze, to pave the way for a summit of their leaders.

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 Palestinian President.

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 the camps.

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 summit.”

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 demands.

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 Ltd. 01/27/05)

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