Mofaz, Dahlan to meet for second security meeting (HA´ARETZ NEWS) By Haaretz Service and The Associated Press 01/31/05 13:54 (GMT+2)
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Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz is scheduled to discuss security
preparations in a meeting Monday evening with Palestinian negotiator
and former security cheif Mohammed Dahlan, their second session in
three days, Israeli defense officials said.
Mofaz and Dahlan are expected to complete preparations for a handover
of security control to the Palestinians in several West Bank towns
and a possible release of hundreds of Palestinian security prisoners
held by Israel.
Abbas to ask Sharon to release 8,000 prisoners
Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas will ask Prime Minister
Ariel Sharon to release 8,000 jailed Palestinians in their summit
next week, Army Radio reported Monday.
Quoting a report in the London-based Asharq al-Awsat, the radio said
Abbas would also push for a withdrawal of IDF forces to the lines
held prior to the September 2000 eruption of the intifada.
Abbas also plans to ask for Israeli-Palestinian coordination in the
implementation of Sharon´s disengagement plan, initially envisioned
as a unilateral withdrawal from the Gaza Strip and four West Bank
settlements, according to the report.
It also quoted aides to Abbas as saying the meeting between the two
leaders would not deal with resumption of Israeli-Palestinian peace
Abbas meets with Russian officials in Moscow
Abbas met with top Russian officials Monday in a bid to win Moscow´s
support in upcoming peace talks with Israel, and President Vladimir
Putin expressed hope that the new leader would be able to jump-start
solutions to Palestinians´ intractable problems.
"Life in the region goes on, and in Palestine there are many problems
that have been waiting to be resolved for decades," Putin told Abbas
at the start of a Kremlin meeting. "We strongly hope that you, Mr.
Chairman, will be able to take steps toward improving the situation
in respect to Israel as well as the socioeconomic situation in
Palestine. We are ready to work actively as before together with the
international community to help solve all these problems."
Abbas expressed gratitude to Russia and said it could be critical in
helping achieve what he called "a historic chance for peace."
"We hope that the position of Russia, the support and help given both
on the bilateral basis and as part of the quartet of international
mediators, will have a decisive importance for reaching a
comprehensive and lasting peace in the Middle East," Abbas said.
Earlier Monday, he told Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov that
he had done everything to make Moscow his first foreign destination
outside the Mideast region following his election earlier this month.
"It shows the respect the Palestinian people feel toward the Russian
people and it shows the important role that Russia plays on the world
arena, above all in the Middle East, namely in the quartet, in which
Russia is a most notable representative," Abbas, who is also known as
Abu Mazen, said through a translator.
The so-called quartet seeking Mideast peace also includes the United
States, the United Nations and the European Union.
Later in the day, Abbas met with Boris Gryzlov, the speaker of the
lower house of parliament.
"We have always supported you in your difficult fight for
independence," Gryzlov told Abbas. "Today we are seeing quite
favorable conditions for a peaceful settlement."
Abbas´ trip comes amid renewed hopes for peace after a sharp drop in
violence between Israel and the Palestinians, and the Foreign
Ministry said his talks with Lavrov would focus on peace efforts.
Ministry spokesman Alexander Yakovenko said that Abbas had begun
resolute efforts to reform Palestinian power structures, including
security agencies, and to stem extremist and terrorist activity, the
ITAR-Tass news agency reported.
"The new Palestinian administration is working on the provision of
order in the Palestinian territories and the containment of
terrorists," it quoted him as saying.
Yakovenko said topics at the talks would also include bilateral
relations, Iraq and democratization and reforms in the Middle East,
Russia has traditionally played a secondary role to Washington in
Mideast peacemaking. A Cold War-era supporter of the Palestinians,
Moscow´s relations with Israel have improved significantly since the
1991 Soviet collapse.
Arab nations have expressed an interest in a stronger Russian role in
the Middle East. Visiting Moscow last week, Syrian President Bashar
Assad played up Russia´s clout on the world stage and won a write-off
of most of his country´s multimillion-dollar debt to Moscow.
Russia´s Gazeta daily suggested Monday that Abbas´s trip showed that
the Palestinian leader intended Russia to be his ally in talks with
Israel. The paper noted that Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon was
set to meet U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.
"This way both sides have demonstrated which of the peace process-
sponsoring states they are putting their stake on and whom they
regard as their allies," the paper said.
Abbas, who received his doctorate from Moscow State University, told
Gryzlov that he has warm memories from his student days here. Russian
media report that Abbas speaks some Russian and is involved in a
Russian-Palestinian friendship association. (© Copyright 2005
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