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Palestinians demand Israeli concessions, Israel ready to comply (ISRAEL INSIDER) By Israel Insider staff and partners 01/29/05)Source: http://web.israelinsider.com/Articles/Diplomacy/4895.htm ISRAEL INSIDER ISRAEL INSIDER Articles-Index-TopPublishers-Index-Top
Palestinian militant groups are very close to reaching a political accord with new leader Mahmoud Abbas that would include a formal halt to violence against Israel, a senior Palestinian official said Saturday, but Israeli concessions will be necessary to seal the agreement. A senior Israeli defense official said the government was willing to make significant concessions on security to show flexibility and so the "seedling" of warmer relations could "blossom."

Palestinian Foreign Minister Nabil Shaath said representatives of the militant groups, which include Hamas and Islamic Jihad, will travel to Cairo in the first week of February. The talks with Egyptian security officials are aimed at securing an end to hostilities against Israel within the framework of a Palestinian national accord.

Shaath was part of a delegation led by Abbas that met with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak in Cairo on Saturday. "I think we are very close to a national agreement," he said.

However, he said, Israel must formally accept the cease-fire, withdrawal its troops from West Bank cities and release Palestinian prisoners for the Palestinian groups to move forward with the accord.

"All of these measures will help to cement the cease-fire," he said.

Israeli official: Ready to concede on security Israeli security officials are ready to make significant concessions to the new Palestinian leadership to promote efforts to end more than four years of fighting, a top Defense Ministry official said Saturday.

The comments by Amos Gilad, a senior adviser to Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz, came ahead of a flurry of meetings meant to pave the way for a summit of the Israeli and Palestinian leaders.

"The entire defense establishment is in full agreement that there is now an opportunity that must be taken advantage of," Gilad told Israel Radio. "All necessary steps, whether it will be security concessions that will reduce levels of friction, we will show tremendous flexibility toward every subject on the agenda to try and enhance chances."

Palestinian officials say the summit between Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas, tentatively scheduled for the second week of February, will depend on the success of this week´s preparatory talks. The Palestinians are looking for a formal cease-fire declaration from Israel and a large-scale release of prisoners held by Israel.

Abbas has already won an informal commitment from Palestinian militants to halt attacks on Israeli targets, and deployed thousands of police throughout the Gaza Strip to ensure quiet. Israel, in return, has halted offensive operations in Gaza and scaled back activities in the West Bank.

Israel, which accused Abbas´ predecessor, Yasser Arafat, of encouraging violence, is pleased with the new Palestinian leadership, Gilad said. He said that Israel would show flexibility in the upcoming negotiations.

"There will be a new attitude of flexibility with real intention to give a chance to the new Palestinian government, which has declared that its interest is to fight terror," he said. "At this stage the defense establishment, including the Israeli army and all the rest are willing to do everything, really everything, to allow this seedling to blossom."

The AP contributed to this report. (© 2001-2005 Koret Communications Ltd. 01/29/05)

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