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Creation of Palestinian State Could Come Sooner Than Expected, Israel Says (CNS-CYBERCAST NEWS SERVICE) By Julie Stahl JERUSALEM, ISRAEL 02/03/05)Source: http://www.cnsnews.com//ViewForeignBureaus.asp?Page=\ForeignBureaus\archive\200502\FOR20050203d.html CNS} CYBERCAST NEWS SERVICE CNS} CYBERCAST NEWS SERVICE Articles-Index-TopPublishers-Index-Top
Jerusalem (CNSNews.com) - The creation of a Palestinian state is indeed "within reach" and could come sooner than expected if the Palestinians fulfill their commitments under the road map peace plan, Israel said on Thursday.

The Palestinian Authority welcomed President Bush´s comments in his annual State of the Union address Wednesday, when he said the creation of a Palestinian state was "within reach" and pledged additional U.S. aid to make it happen.

"The beginnings of reform and democracy in the Palestinian territories are now showing the power of freedom to break old patterns of violence and failure," Bush said.

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is due in the region for talks with Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas as well as other Israeli and Palestinian leaders on Sunday and Monday. She wants to see how the U.S. and its friends can "help the Palestinian people end terror and build the institutions of a peaceful, independent, democratic state," Bush said.

"To promote this democracy, I will ask Congress for $350 million to support Palestinian political, economic, and security reforms. The goal of two democratic states, Israel and Palestine, living side by side in peace, is within reach - and America will help them achieve that goal," he added.

The Palestinian Authority´s chief negotiator, Saeb Erekat, welcomed Bush´s speech.

"We welcome this statement by President Bush and ask him to put it into [the] real political track," Erekat said. "We thank him for pledging $350 million to help the Palestinian [people]," he added.

Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman Mark Regev said the creation of a Palestinian state is "within reach" and could happen sooner than expected.

"Israel is committed to the road map. The road map talks clearly about the eventual creation of a Palestinian State," Regev said.

"If the Palestinians implement their commitments under the road map, the day of creation of a Palestinian state will indeed be brought forward," he said.

"We support the international community´s efforts to rebuild their institutions, which have been ruined under the former regime by mismanagement, corruption and cronyism," Regev said of Bush´s pledge of financial assistance to the Palestinians.

The road map was based on a 2002 policy address by President Bush and written as a joint effort of the Quartet - the U.S., European Union, Russia and the United Nations.

It called for the establishment of a Palestinian state with provisional borders by the end of 2003 with a permanent status agreement and the end of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict by the end of this year.

But the plan never got off the ground. Among other things, the first phase called on the Palestinians to declare "an unequivocal end to violence and terrorism" as well as to carry out "sustained, targeted and effective operations aimed at confronting all those engaged in terror and dismantlement of terrorist capabilities and infrastructure."

Israel was to refrain from taking any actions "undermining trust" of the Palestinians, dismantle unauthorized outposts and freeze settlement building in West Bank and the Gaza Strip.

But since he was elected to replace PA Chairman Yasser Arafat on January 9, Abbas has taken steps to curb terrorist activity, including deploying thousands of PA security forces in the Gaza Strip to prevent the firing of mortar shells and Kassam rockets at Israeli communities.

Although there have continued to be a number of smaller incidents, Israel has expressed its satisfaction with the steps taken by the Palestinians so far.

Sharon and Abbas are due to meet at a four-way summit in Sharm el- Sheikh, Egypt next week, which will include Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and Jordanian King Abdullah II. (copyright 1998-2005 Cybercast News Service. 02/03/05)


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