Sharon: ´We are on verge of historic breakthrough´ (JERUSALEM POST) By HERB KEINON 01/28/05)
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Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, not prone to exaggerated optimism when
it comes to the Palestinian Authority, made his most upbeat
assessment of the situation to date on Thursday, saying he believes
conditions are now ripe for a "historic" breakthrough.
"I believe that the conditions have been created which will enable us
and the Palestinians to reach a historic breakthrough in relations
between us, a breakthrough which would lead us towards quiet and
security and – in the future – even the hoped-for peace," Sharon said
at a conference of the Contractors Association in Tel Aviv.
"We deserve this, all of us," he added. "I want to say that we are
seeing encouraging signs, but these matters must be put to the test."
Sharon´s uncharacteristically upbeat assessment came on the eve of a
visit by his top aide, Dov Weisglass, to Washington for a meeting
with new US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and her replacement
as national security adviser, Stephen Hadley.
Sharon, in a marked departure from his standard comments that the PA
is doing nothing to fight terrorism, told the Contractors
Association: "We are monitoring recent developments in the
Palestinian Authority with great interest, and it seems that there is
a positive approach there regarding the war on terrorism and
advancing the diplomatic process."
Sharon, who is now expected to meet PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas in some
two weeks to talk about a range of issues, said: "If the Palestinians
take comprehensive action to stop the terrorism, violence and
incitement, we will be able to move forward in contacts on
implementing the road map and it would even be possible to coordinate
with them on various actions regarding the disengagement plan."
At the same time, Sharon seemed to deflate Palestinian hopes that he
would release hundreds, if not thousands, of Palestinian prisoners
and make other gestures to the PA, saying: "We are prepared to go
far, we are prepared to make concessions, but in one area we will not
make concessions – in the area of security for the State of Israel
and its citizens."
One senior diplomatic official said the quiet that Abbas is providing
will be repaid with quiet by Israel.
"The demand for a prisoner release is a transparent move," the
official said. "They are trying to create the image that now that
there is quiet, everything is okay and we can we can jump into final
status talks and bypass all the steps in the road map."
The official said that while the relative quiet of the last week is
welcome, it does not obviate the Palestinian need to stop incitement,
confiscate weapons, make arrests and dismantle the terrorist
"There will be no discounts," the official said. "If they take
comprehensive action we will move ahead. For the quiet we see now we
will pay with quiet of our own."
This message, according to officials, was passed on to US Assistant
Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs William Burns, who met
Sharon Thursday. Burns also met earlier with Chief of General Staff
Lt.-Gen. Moshe Ya´alon and National Security Council head Giora
Eiland, as well as with Abbas and PA Prime Minister Ahmed Qurei.
Israeli officials said Burns was pleased with the recent developments
and expressed satisfaction regarding the moves the Palestinians are
taking in the Gaza Strip and with the restraint Israel showed in Gaza
Sharon told Burns that Israel is willing to discuss transferring
control of a number of West Bank cites to PA security control, as was
planned over a year ago, but only on condition that the PA
demonstrates it is able to exert control over those cities. (© 1995-
2005, The Jerusalem Post 01/28/05)
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