Peres says "magic" has returned to the Mideast "mountain" (ISRAEL INSIDER) By Israel Insider staff and partners 01/28/05)
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Israeli Vice Premier Shimon Peres said he was encouraged by the
election of Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas in "a convincing
democratic way," and welcomed a fresh approach to the Middle East
conflict by Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon.
"I feel that we are again approaching a new age," Peres said in a
panel discussion between Israeli and Palestinian leaders.
He said he was encouraged by the election of Abbas in "a convincing
But, he said, "what surprised me is the implementation" of changes to
foster peace talks.
"In a few days he changed the whole atmosphere in the Middle East,"
Peres said. "All of a sudden there is a meeting of minds and moods."
He also praised Sharon, even though he noted the sharp differences in
their politics, and that he had never voted for him.
"I´m pleasantly surprised by the actions taken by the two sides,"
He noted he had attended 10 previous annual meetings in Davos, high
in the Swiss Alps, many of which were devoted to Israeli-Palestinian
"The magic has returned to the mountain," Peres said.
In 1994 he negotiated with the late Palestinian leader Yasser in
round-the-clock talks that both sides hailed as inspired by the
mountain, a reference to Thomas Mann´s novel, "The Magic Mountain,"
which is set in Davos.
Peres did not relate to the overwhelming victory of Hamas in local
elections in Gaza.
Some Palestinians, Israelis more skeptical
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."
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." The AP contributed to this
report. (© 2001-2005 Koret Communications Ltd. 01/28/05)
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