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Sharon, Abbas to Meet in Egypt (CNS-CYBERCAST NEWS SERVICE) By Julie Stahl JERUSALEM, ISRAEL 02/02/05)Source: http://www.cnsnews.com//ViewForeignBureaus.asp?Page=\ForeignBureaus\archive\200502\FOR20050202b.html CNS} CYBERCAST NEWS SERVICE CNS} CYBERCAST NEWS SERVICE Articles-Index-TopPublishers-Index-Top
Jerusalem (CNSNews.com) - Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak will host a meeting between Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas next Tuesday, Sharon´s office announced on Wednesday.

Sharon has accepted the invitation and Abbas is expected to do likewise.

A meeting between Sharon and Abbas has been anticipated since Abbas was elected on January 9 to succeed Yasser Arafat as Palestinian Authority chairman. But Egypt´s offer to host the meeting came as something of a surprise.

Jordan´s King Abdullah also will participate, Israel Radio reported.

The U.S. Embassy in Tel Aviv could not confirm whether Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice - who is due here on Sunday for talks with Israeli and Palestinian leaders - would attend the meeting in Sharm el-Sheikh, but it is unlikely, since she´s scheduled to be in Europe on Monday.

The last time Sharon and Abbas met was in July 2003, when Abbas was PA prime minister. But the high-profile, televised meeting, conducted in Hebrew and Arabic, angered Arafat, who accused Abbas of being a traitor to the Palestinian cause. Abbas resigned two months later.

Wednesday´s announcement followed a meeting between Sharon and Mubarak´s special envoy, Egyptian Intelligence Minister Gen. Omar Suleiman.

The meeting follows "positive developments" in security talks between Israel and the PA as well as progress in security talks with the Egyptians, said Sharon´s spokesman Dr. Ra´anan Gissin.

Israel has expressed some satisfaction at recent moves to bring about calm in troubled areas, including the deployment of thousands of PA security forces in the Gaza Strip to stop the firing of mortar shells and Kassam rockets at Israeli communities and targets.

Israeli Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz and PA security chief Mohammed Dahlan met twice during the last week to coordinate security moves and to discuss the handover of security control of Palestinian cities in the West Bank to the PA.

Despite the security coordination, Palestinian gunmen opened fire on an Israeli settlement in the Gaza Strip at midday on Wednesday and overnight fired a mortar shell at an Israeli community there.

Two days ago, Palestinians accused Israeli soldiers of killing a 10- year-old Palestinian girl. Israel has said it had nothing to do with the girl´s death and PA security forces arrested and then released a Palestinian for the killing on Tuesday.

"President Mubarak invited [Sharon and Abbas] because of recent positive developments in security talks," Gissin said. "No doubt Egypt wants to play a constructive role in [the talks]."

According to Gissin, it´s "very important" for Egypt to be involved in the security talks because of Israel´s plan to disengage from the Gaza Strip. Israel is insisting that the Palestinians take "real steps" towards ending violence, terrorism and incitement, he said.

The agenda for the meeting to be held in the Egyptian Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh - the sight of previous peace talks - will be decided by top-level Israeli and PA officials, who are due to meet on Thursday.

Chief PA negotiator Saeb Erekat confirmed that Abbas would likely be going to the summit.

The Palestinians want the "mutual implementation of the obligations form the road map," Erekat said, referring to the U.S.-backed peace plan written jointly by the U.S., Russia, European Union and United Nations.

The first phase of the road map, which envisions the creation of an independent Palestinian state, obligates Israel to remove unauthorized settlement outposts in the West Bank and obligates Palestinians to halt terrorism and dismantle the terrorist infrastructure.

Palestinians also are demanding the release of thousands of Palestinian security prisoners held by Israel and the removal of roadblocks in the West Bank, which according to Erekat, are included in the road map.

They also want a commitment from Israel not to engage in arrest operations against wanted fugitives, reports have said.

Asked about the likelihood that Israel would agree to such moves, Gissin said that it all depends on the steps taken by the Palestinians.

"[Israel is] willing to implement gestures, provided [the Palestinians] take real steps [toward] peace and security and fighting terrorism. Quiet is a first step. It´s good but it´s not enough," he said.

All obligations have to be met in the first phase of the road map before moving on to the next phase, Gissin added.

Rice, who is making her first Middle East tour since becoming secretary of state, said Washington is expecting the PA to dismantle terrorist organizations but she also praised Abbas for steps he has taken so far.

Rice said recent circumstances give a "greater opportunity to progress back onto the road map and...a two-state solution."

In an interview with two wire services, Rice said that Abbas has made "some progress" on curbing attacks against Israel -- although the situation isn´t "perfect."

"We hope they´ll continue to act and to act more effectively," she said.

Rice also said she hopes to see Israel respond likewise by allowing more freedom of movement to Palestinians. She also noted Israel´s willingness to withdraw from Palestinian areas and said this should give encouragement to the Palestinians. (copyright 1998-2005 Cybercast News Service. 02/02/05)

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