Israel to Weigh Pre-Summit Gestures for Abbas(REUTERS) By Allyn Fisher-Ilan JERUSALEM, ISRAEL 02/02/05 08:14 PM ET)
Reuters News Service
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JERUSALEM (Reuters) - Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon will
convene top cabinet deputies on Thursday to debate offering goodwill
gestures to Palestinians in advance of a summit next week in Egypt to
restart long-stalled peace talks.
The meeting comes a day after Egypt invited Sharon and Palestinian
President Mahmoud Abbas for a first summit between the two sides
since an outbreak of violence in 2000, to be held on Feb. 8, at Sharm
el-Sheikh on the Red Sea.
The talks, to be joined by Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and
Jordan´s King Abdullah, would aim to solidify a shaky de facto cease-
fire by setting in motion a peace process based on a U.S.-
backed "road map" to a Palestinian state.
The summit was called as President Bush showed renewed interest in
encouraging Middle East diplomacy. New Secretary of State Condoleezza
Rice was due to meet Sharon and Abbas separately in the region next
Sources in Washington said Bush would pledge $350 million in aid to
Palestinians in his State of the Union address to help them prepare
for Israel´s planned Gaza withdrawal.
Egypt and Jordan signed peace deals with Israel in 1979 and 1994,
respectively, the only Arab states to do so, and have acted as
intermediaries during the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Israeli ministers will discuss scheduling a handover to Palestinians
of five West Bank cities reoccupied in four years of conflict,
freeing up to 500 prisoners and suspending a hunt for militants who
surrender their guns, political sources said.
Israel may also open more crossing points for Palestinians in
territories occupied in the 1967 Middle East War, they said.
In exchange for these gestures, Israel expects both Egypt and Jordan
to restore ambassadors to Tel Aviv who had been recalled when the
Israel also seeks further Palestinian commitment to rein in militants.
While Israel has curtailed military action as Palestinians under the
moderate Abbas have nearly halted attacks, it has refused a formal
truce and seeks a complete dissolution of militant groups.
"We do not see any active work in which they (Palestinians) arrest
terrorists," Israeli Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz told army officers
while visiting troops in Gaza on Wednesday.
"I had hoped it would start to happen sooner," he said.
"They want to move fast on political issues but we will accept no
leapfrogging over security commitments written into the first phase
of the road map," a senior official told Reuters of Israel´s
expectations at the coming summit.
Abbas, citing a concern not to stir civil unrest, has said he wants
to co-opt rather than crush militants.
Palestinians have also demanded greater Israeli compliance with
obligations of the road map including a halt to Jewish settlement
expansion in the West Bank.
In Cairo, Egyptian officials made some progress in efforts to
persuade Palestinian militants to reach a cease-fire.
After talks on Wednesday, Khaled Meshaal, the exiled leader of the
Islamic group Hamas said he had noted "some change in the Israeli
position" and repeated demands that Israel release Palestinian
detainees and stop attacks on Hamas. (© Reuters 2005 02/02/05)
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