Gaza pullout must be tied to peace - Palestinians (REUTERS) By Paul Taylor DAVOS, Switzerland 01/28/05 07:18 AM ET)
Reuters News Service
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DAVOS, Switzerland (Reuters) - Palestinian leaders warned their
Israeli counterparts on Friday that a new spirit of cooperation
between the Middle East foes would endure only if Israel´s Gaza
pullout was linked to a final peace settlement.
Leaders from both sides addressing the World Economic Forum hailed
the new mood of goodwill since the January 9 election of Palestinian
President Mahmoud Abbas after more than four years of bitter armed
"A window of opportunity, a dramatic change is shaping up and taking
place," Israeli Deputy Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, a close ally of
Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, told world business and political
Sharon´s decision to withdraw unilaterally from the Gaza Strip and
remove Jewish settlements there this year, and the emergence of a new
democratic Palestinian leader had created the opportunity, he said.
Sharon has said conditions were right for a "historic breakthrough"
on Middle East peace and if Palestinians worked to "fight terror"
then Israel could move forward with a U.S.-backed peace "road map"
meant to lead to a Palestinian state.
But Palestinian Liberation Organisation official Yasser Abed Rabbo
said in Davos the dream of a new partnership could be destroyed if
Israel continued expanding West Bank settlements and building its
security barrier on expropriated Arab land.
"With what is currently going on on the ground, building the wall
around the Palestinian populated areas and the expansion of the
settlements, I´m afraid my dream will be lost," he said.
"We cannot be sub-contractors for unilateral Israeli moves," Abed
Rabbo said of Sharon´s plan to pull out of Gaza over the summer,
handing authority to Palestinians.
"We need a comprehensive solution that will close all the gaps ...
Side by side with the Gaza step, there should be a resumption of the
final status negotiations."
Israeli Vice Prime Minister Shimon Peres, whose more dovish Labour
Party this month joined a national unity government with Sharon´s
right-wing Likud, said he was surprised and impressed by Abbas´ rapid
implementation of security measures in Gaza.
"This is the first time someone has taken on leadership and in a few
days changed the entire atmosphere," Peres said of Abbas. "All of a
sudden there is a meeting of minds and moods."
The Palestinian leader has persuaded militant groups to observe a de
facto truce and deployed Palestinian security forces to stop rocket
attacks on Israel.
But Israeli Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom told the WEF the
Palestinians must do more to dismantle the infrastructure of armed
groups, otherwise fresh attacks could undermine any progress towards
Olmert offered to start immediate talks with the Palestinians on
handing over control of the Erez industrial zone on the Israel-Gaza
border, which he said could be the nucleus of an independent Gaza
But Palestinian Finance Minister Salam Fayyad cautioned: "Important
though it is, economic development is no substitute for a credible,
durable progress on the political track."
WEF founder Klaus Schwab called for the forum, which has met for the
last 35 years in the Swiss ski resort of Davos except for one session
in 2002 in New York, to hold a future meeting in the West Bank town
of Bethlehem, biblical birthplace of Jesus to show support for a two-
He presented the leaders with mementoes of mountain crystal on plates
inscribed: "World Economic Forum, Bethlehem - date to be announced
soon." (© Reuters 2005 01/28/05)
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