Gaza pullout must be tied to peace - Palestinians (REUTERS) By Paul Taylor DAVOS, Switzerland 01/28/05 03:52 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 in the
Swiss resort of Davos hailed the new mood of goodwill since the
January 9 election of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas after more
than four years of bitter armed conflict.
"A window of opportunity, a dramatic change is shaping up and taking
place," Israeli Vice 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 occupied 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."
Abbas has persuaded militant groups to observe a de facto truce and
deployed Palestinian security forces to stop rocket attacks on Israel.
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."
Speaking to Reuters, Egyptian Prime Minister Ahmed Nazif was also
optimistic about the Palestinian leader.
"This is the best window we had for some time, and we should
capitalise on it," he said, adding Egypt would continue to play "an
important role" and urging the United States to do the same.
"The United States should... be more visible in presenting support to
both sides, especially to Abu Mazen (Abbas)," he said.
But Israeli Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom told the Forum in Davos
the Palestinians must do more to dismantle the infrastructure of
armed groups, otherwise fresh attacks could undermine any progress
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."
World Economic Forum founder Klaus Schwab called for the forum, which
has met for the last 35 years in 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 01/29/05)
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