Israel, Palestinians Prepare for Summit (AP) By PETER ENAV TEL AVIV, ISRAEL 01/29/05 5:36 PM)
AP} ASSOCIATED PRESS
AP} ASSOCIATED PRESS Articles-Index-Top
TEL AVIV, Israel - A Saturday meeting between Israel´s defense
minister and a top Palestinian security official went well, Israeli
officials said, as the two sides try to reconcile widely differing
expectations for an upcoming summit between Prime Minister Ariel
Sharon and Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas.
Israeli Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz and Palestinian security
official Mohammed Dahlan, a top adviser to Abbas, met late Saturday
under tight security at a Tel Aviv hotel. The talks focused on
Israeli officials described a "good positive atmosphere," and said
the talks would continue next week. Details of what the two discussed
were not immediately available.
The talks were part of preparations for a summit between Abbas and
Sharon expected in the second week of February. The summit would be a
crucial step in the push to end four years of hostilities and revive
Israel-Palestinian peace talks.
The meeting would also be the highest-level contacts between Israel
and the Palestinians since June 2003 when Sharon and Abbas - then
prime minister - launched the "road map" peace plan.
There were more signs of a warming in relations on Saturday.
Palestinians saying they were close to a deal with militant factions
to halt attacks on Israeli targets, while an Israeli official said
the government would do "everything" in its power to encourage the
current calming of tensions.
However, crucial differences on what can be expected from the summit
have begun to emerge.
Palestinian officials said Saturday they expect a wide-ranging agenda
that will include the declaration of a formal truce, a large-scale
release of Palestinian prisoners held by Israel and the resumption of
Israel however appears reluctant to move from security concerns into
Abbas has been trying to co-opt Palestinian militants into the
political system, and has already coaxed them into temporarily
halting attacks on Israelis.
Palestinian Foreign Minister Nabil Shaath said Saturday that Abbas
is "very close" to a political agreement with the militants that
would include a cease-fire, but added that a formal halt to violence
would depend on Israel.
He said Israel must formally accept a cease-fire, withdraw troops
from West Bank cities and release some of the 7,000 prisoners it is
holding to move forward with the accord.
"There is a temporary cease-fire and we are waiting for an Israeli
response," Shaath told The Associated Press by phone from Syria,
where he met government officials and the leader of Hamas. "If Israel
reciprocated, the cease-fire will turn from a temporary into a
Shaath said Egypt, a key mediator, has invited representatives of
militant groups to Cairo next week to continue the efforts.
During Abbas´ brief tenure, Israel and the Palestinians have made
significant progress on security matters. Abbas has deployed
thousands of Palestinian police throughout the Gaza Strip to prevent
attacks on Israelis, resulting in a sharp drop in violence.
In return, the Israeli military has halted raids in Gaza and scaled
back activities in the West Bank.
Saturday´s meeting between Dahlan and Mofaz was expected to focus on
an Israeli military pullback from five West Bank cities and other
ways to ease restrictions on Palestinian movement.
Amos Gilad, a senior adviser to Mofaz, said Israel is ready to
consider widespread concessions.
"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," Gilad told Israel Radio. "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."
White House spokeswoman Claire Buchan said the United States "would
be glad to see talks being held at the highest level." Newly
confirmed U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is planning to
visit Israel and the Palestinian territories next week.
Sharon has said he is pleased with Abbas´ efforts so far. He has
begun to talk about coordinating Israel´s planned withdrawal from
Gaza this year with Abbas rather than pulling out unilaterally as
Israeli officials said the agenda for the summit will be finalized in
coming days but it is premature to begin thinking about the road map.
No date has been announced yet.
While welcoming the recent calm, one senior official dismissed calls
for a mutual cease-fire, repeating Israel´s stance that Palestinians
must dismantle terrorist organizations before political negotiations
Abbas has so far rejected calls to confront the militants, preferring
to persuade them into halting their activities. The Palestinians
maintain this is sufficient for resuming peace negotiations.
In the Gaza refugee camp Maghazi, a political rally by Hamas turned
violent on Saturday as supporters of the rival Fatah faction opened
fire, sparking a melee that left more than 20 people wounded. The
rally was held to celebrate Hamas´ victory in municipal elections in
Gaza earlier this week. (Copyright 2005 Associated Press. 01/29/05)
Return to Top
MATERIAL REPRODUCED FOR EDUCATIONAL PURPOSES ONLY