Cease-fire to be declared next week (JERUSALEM POST) By KHALED ABU TOAMEH 02/04/05)
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The Palestinian Authority will announce a formal cease-fire with
Israel at next week´s summit in Sharm e-Sheikh, PA Chairman Mahmoud
Abbas (Abu Mazen) said Thursday.
Abbas is expected to hold a series of meetings over the next few days
with senior PA and Fatah officials to prepare for the summit.
Many Palestinians here expressed hope that the summit would mark the
beginning of a new era in relations with Israel.
"The most important thing is to secure the release of all the
prisoners held in Israel," said a top Fatah official. "The people
want to see real changes on the ground, and such a step would restore
their confidence in the peace process. It will also boost Abu Mazen´s
But a newspaper editor cautioned against "excessive optimism," saying
it was premature to talk about a major breakthrough.
"We´re still at the beginning of the road," he said. "I believe the
majority of Palestinians are now prepared to stop the intifada and
return to the negotiating table. But this will take some time because
of all that happened over the past four years."
"We will announce a cease-fire and the Israeli side must announce the
same thing," Abbas told reporters outside the Mukata "presidential"
compound. "There are positive signs" that Israel will observe the
cease-fire, he said.
Abbas, who is scheduled to meet with Prime Minister Ariel Sharon on
Tuesday for the first time in more than four years, said: "I hope
that the summit will be successful. There are many positive signals;
otherwise we wouldn´t have agreed to go. We pray to God that the
summit will lead to the resumption of the peace process and an
agreement on a cease-fire."
In response to Israel´s decision to release hundreds of Palestinian
prisoners on the eve of the summit, Abbas said: "We don´t know how
many will be released. Nor do we know their identities. But we hope
that the first group of released prisoners will be big and will
include those who have spent many years in prison."
PA Minister for Negotiations Saeb Erekat also voiced optimism that
the summit would put an end to the violence.
"You can hear the Palestinian leader saying from Sharm e-Sheikh that
the Palestinians are committed to stopping all kinds of violence
against Israelis anywhere – period," he said.
Erekat said the summit would be a success "if we can announce a
mutual cessation of violence against the other."
In addition, Erekat said, the summit would succeed if the parties
resumed security cooperation on the level that existed before the
intifada in 2000, and if Israel released a "significant and genuine"
number of Palestinian prisoners.
"Also, something must be done about the settlement activities, and
the [security] wall, and the [PLO and other Palestinian] offices in
east Jerusalem which were closed by the Israelis," he added.
However, PA Prime Minister Ahmed Qurei sounded less optimistic,
saying the situation on the ground remained unchanged because of
Israel´s policy of constructing settlements.
"The situation on the ground remains as it is and is even
deteriorating day by day," he told a visiting European
delegation. "We still don´t see a change in the Israeli strategy,
which is based on unilateral decisions, such as the construction of
the wall, expanding settlements and isolating [east] Jerusalem."
Qurei nevertheless expressed hope that the upcoming summit would
result in the resumption of the peace process and a mutual cease-
fire. He also said the Palestinians are hoping that Israel would
agree to stop construction in the settlements and the security fence
and withdraw its soldiers to their pre-September 28, 2000, positions.
"If Israel is serious, what is preventing it from withdrawing its
forces, especially from the three villages surrounding Jerusalem –
Abu Dis, Sawahra and Eizariya – and halting its policy of
assassination, detention and demolition?" he asked.
Qurei said the PA security forces were ready to assume control of
five West Bank cities that will be handed over to the Palestinians
But Hafez Barghouti, editor of the daily Al-Hayat al-Jadeeda, said he
did not believe the PA security forces were prepared for the task.
"The experiences of the past have shown that these forces are unable
to carry out their duties because they haven´t been reconstructed and
because of the lack of coordination between them," he said.
Barghouti cited the lack of discipline and internal squabbling as
another reason responsible for the impotence of the security forces.
"In the absence of security discipline and the rule of law, I don´t
think that we are capable of assuming security responsibilities in
the cities," he said. (© 1995-2005, The Jerusalem Post 02/04/05)
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