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Israel, Palestinians set to declare end to violence at Mideast summit (AFP-FRANCE PRESSE) RAMALLAH, West Bank RAMALLAH, West Bank 02/03/05 9:08 AM ET)Source: http://story.news.yahoo.com/news?tmpl=story&cid=1515&ncid=1515&e=8&u=/afp/20050203/wl_mideast_afp/mideast_050203140844 AFP} Agence France Presse AFP} Agence France Presse Articles-Index-TopPublishers-Index-Top
RAMALLAH, West Bank (AFP) - Israel and the Palestinians are expected to draw a line under more than four years of deadly violence at next week´s landmark Middle East peace summit.

Palestinian leader Mahmud Abbas said he expected Israel to formally announce that it would match a ceasefire at Tuesday´s summit with Prime Minister Ariel Sharon in the Egyptian Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh.

"We have decreed a ceasefire and the Israeli side must announce the same thing," Abbas told reporters Thursday.

Tuesday´s summit will be the first time the top Israeli and Palestinian leaders have met since October 2000, and is the clearest indication of tangible progress in the peace process which has run aground since the launch of the roadmap in 2003.

The processs is also expected to receive a boost from next week´s visit to the region by new US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice after President George W. Bush vowed in his State of the Union speech to push for the creation of a Palestinian state.

Israel´s Deputy Prime Minister Shimon Peres also predicted there would be a joint declaration for a total end to violence which has claimed some 4,700 lives since the eruption of the Palestinian intifada in September 2000.

"I hope that during the course of this summit there will be a declaration of a total end to violence and combat," Peres told military radio.

The headline on Israel´s top-selling daily, Yediot Aharonot, read "The End of the Intifada" as it also anticipated a joint declaration.

Palestinian officials including top negotiator Saeb Erakat are set to meet top Sharon adviser Dov Weisglass Thursday to hammer out the agenda for the Egypt summit.

But a source close to Sharon said the summit would not focus on implementation of the long-stalled peace roadmap, which aims for the creation of a Palestinian state alongside a secure Israel.

The election of the moderate Abbas on January 9 and Sharon´s plan to pull troops and settlers out from Gaza later this year has led many observers on both sides to detect a genuine window of opportunity in the peace process.

But the differences between Abbas and Sharon on some of the most contentious issues, such as the borders of a future Palestinian state, the plight of Palestinian refugees and the status of Jerusalem, remain huge.

"This summit will be an occasion for declarations, which will be of great significance, but it it is still too early to have political negotiations on the roadmap," the Israeli source said.

Palestinians are hoping that the summit will see Israel agreeing to transfer security control in the West Bank and start releasing prisoners.

"The Palestinian delegation will try to break the siege around the Palestinian people, stop the Israeli attacks and release our fighters," former Palestinian security minister Mohammed Dahlan told reporters.

Meanwhile, 42 Palestinian security officers left for Cairo to undergo training in preparation for taking control in Gaza after the Israeli withdrawal, Palestinian security sources said.

Jordanian Foreign Minister Hani Mulki also said that Palestinians trained in Jordan would be deployed in the West Bank to ensure order after an Israeli withdrawal from four Jewish settlements in the northern West Bank.

In his annual State of the Union address, Bush was upbeat about the prospects for a peaceful settlement, saying the goal of an independent Palestinian state was now within reach and pledging 350 million dollars to support Palestinian 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 said.

Advancing the peace process and the prospects for a Palestinian state will top the agenda when Rice visits the region next week, he added.

On the ground, a Palestinian teenager died of injuries he sustained last month during an Israeli incursion into northern Gaza, medics said.

His death raised to 4,726 the number of people killed since the start of the Palestinian intifada, or uprising, in September 2000, including 3,671 Palestinians and 981 Israelis. (Copyright © 2005 Agence France Presse. 02/03/05)

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