PM sees `historic breakthrough´ with Palestinians (HA´ARETZ NEWS) By Aluf Benn and Arnon Regular 01/28/05)
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Prime Minister Ariel Sharon struck a note of optimism yesterday when
he said "the conditions have been created that will enable us and the
Palestinians to reach a historic breakthrough in our relations."
Speaking at a meeting of the Contractors Association, he described
the breakthrough as one "that will bring us to calm and security and
in the future to the desired peace."
Sharon said "we are following with great interest the recent
developments in the Palestinian Authority and it is apparent that
there is a positive approach to the fight against terrorism and to
the furthering of the diplomatic process.
"If the Palestinians take extensive action to end terrorism, violence
and incitement, we will be able to proceed in our contacts for the
implementation of the road map and it is even possible to coordinate
a variety of actions regarding the disengagement plan," he added.
"We are seeing encouraging signs, but these things need to stand up
to the test of time," Sharon said.
Among the signs Sharon was referring to was an edict issued yesterday
by the new Palestinian leadership banning civilians from carrying
In issuing the decree, Prime Minister Ahmed Qureia stressed that
the "chaos of the weapons" had led to a rise in lawlessness.
Also yesterday, sources in the PA said that Nasser Yousef was due to
be appointed interior minister in the Qureia government. Yousef was
in charge of cracking down on militants in the mid-1990s and his
likely appointment is another signal that the new PA leadership is
serious about restoring law and order.
Amos Gilad, in charge of the diplomatic and security sections at the
Defense Ministry, visited Cairo on Wednesday, where he met with the
Egyptian head of intelligence, Omar Suleiman. The two discussed the
plans for the Egyptian military deployment along the Philadelphi
route, on the Egyptian side of the Gaza Strip border. Not all details
were concluded during the meeting and the dialogue will continue.
Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz met yesterday with the British Prime
Minister Tony Blair in London and informed him of plans to meet with
Mohammed Dahlan on the possibility that security arrangements can be
completed in time to initiate the transfer of West Bank towns to
Palestinian security control.
Mofaz expressed his hope that the transfer will take place as soon as
the Palestinians are ready to undertake the responsibility.
For its part, the Bush administration is giving strong backing to
newly elected Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas, and
expects Israel to assist in his success.
"This is the best man in the foreseeable future and he must be given
a chance," senior administration officials told their Israeli
counterparts. They also asked that Israel "give time" to Abbas in
order for him to gradually deal with terrorism, without ignoring the
overall responsibility of the Palestinians to combat terrorism.
In the new, second-term administration of President George Bush, a
quartet is being organized for dealing with the Israeli-Palestinian
file. It includes Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, National
Security Adviser Stephen Hadley, Elliot Abrams, a White House aide
who will be moved up to the number three spot in the National
Security Council, and State Department diplomat David Walsh,
currently the ambassador to Cairo, who will move to head the Middle
The senior administration officials told their counterparts in Israel
that if there are terrorist attacks, Israel should not respond by
suspending diplomatic contacts with the Palestinians. According to
the American officials, the U.S. had supported Sharon´s decision two
weeks ago to suspend contacts with Abbas following the attack at the
Karni crossing, but they now believe this should not be a policy in
response to every attack.
Sharon met yesterday with the outgoing head of the State Department´s
Middle East section, William Burns, who was on a farewell tour of the
region. Burns has been appointed U.S. ambassador to Moscow.
The American diplomat told Sharon that the Bush administration has
been favorably impressed by Abbas and by the measures undertaken by
Israel to facilitate the elections in the territories.
Shin Bet chief Avi Dichter met yesterday with Hadley in Washington,
and brought him up to date on the steps taken by the Palestinian
Authority to curb terrorism, and the role of Hezbollah in fostering
militant activities in the territories.
Also yesterday, Palestinian Authority sources said that Israel is
considering the release of 900 Palestinian prisoners as part of a
goodwill gesture. (© Copyright 2005 Haaretz. 01/28/05)
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