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PA leaders call for resumption of negotiations (HA´ARETZ NEWS) By Aluf Benn, Arnon Regular and Ora Koren, Haaretz Correspondents, and Haaretz Service and the Associated Press 01/28/05 14:49 (GMT+2)Source: http://www.haaretzdaily.com/hasen/spages/533268.html HA'ARETZ} NEWS SERVICE HA'ARETZ} NEWS SERVICE Articles-Index-TopPublishers-Index-Top
Palestinian leaders called Friday for the resumption of negotiations with Israel, warning that the new spirit of cooperation will not endure due to the withdrawal from Gaza alone.

"We cannot be sub-contractors for unilateral Israeli moves," senior Palestinian official Yasser Abed Rabbo, addressing a special session of the World Economic Forum on the political process between Israel and the Palestinians.

"We need a comprehensive solution that will close all the gaps," said Abed Rabbo. "Side by side with the Gaza step, there should be a resumption of the final status negotiations."

Addressing the assembled world business and political leaders in Davos, Switzerland, Vice Premier Shimon Peres hailed the efforts of Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas towards ending attacks on Israelis.

"This is the first time someone has taken on leadership and in a few days changed the entire atmosphere," Vice Premier Shimon Peres said of Abbas. "All of a sudden there is a meeting of minds and moods."

But Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom told the forum the Palestinians must do more to dismantle the infrastructure of armed groups, otherwise fresh attacks could undermine any progress towards peace.

For his part, Abed Rabbo said the dream of a new partnership could be destroyed if Israel continues expanding West Bank settlements and building the West Bank separation fence.

"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.

Vice Prime Minister Ehud Olmert offered to start immediate talks with the PA 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 economy.

But Palestinian Finance Minister Salam Fayad cautioned: "Important though it is, economic development is no substitute for a credible, durable progress on the political track."

Peres, Fayad agree on upgrading fence crossings Peres and Fayad met separately Friday, and agreed on the need to implement a plan to upgrade the crossings between Israel and the Palestinian Authority.

Israel plans to upgrade the crossings in the separation fence, in order to reduce the friction between Israel Defense Forces soldiers and Palestinian residents, and to ease the passage of people and goods.

Between three and five large and modernized terminals will be built along the fence, equipped with new technologies for inspecting persons and goods, allowing a larger volume of goods to pass through and a speedier processing time than at present.

The plan calls for the construction of an additional 40-60 smaller checkpoints, which will include ´back-to-back´ platforms for conveying cargo between trucks on either side.

Peres told Fayad that Israel has reached understandings with the World Bank, which will provide financial assistance for the program.

Peres and Fayad also discussed the transport of goods from the Gaza Strip to Ashdod, the encouragement of international investment in the West Bank and Gaza, and the resumption of the economic dialogue between Israel and the PA.

Peres, Abbas may meet in Davos

World Economic Forum sources said PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas is expected to arrive in Davos on Saturday, in which case it is possible he will hold a separate meeting with Peres.

Peres on Thursday said he expects a planned summit between Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and Abbas to take place within days.

On Monday senior Sharon aide Dov Weisglass will meet with the new U.S. Secretary of State Condolezza Rice, in advance of Rice´s expected visit to Israel and the Palestinian Authority next month.

Rice´s visit is intended to demonstrate her personal involvement in the process and to encourage the new Palestinian leadership to combat terror and advance the disengagement plan. (© Copyright 2005 Haaretz. 01/28/05)

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