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Rice, Sharon discuss impasse (YNetNew.Com - Yedioth Internet) Ronny Sofer 11/14/05)Source: http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-3168911,00.html YNet News - Yediot Achronot YNet News - Yediot Achronot Articles-Index-TopPublishers-Index-Top
Secretary of state in Israel for Rabin commemoration ceremonies; meeting with prime minister centers on diplomatic process with Palestinians, but recent talks regarding Gaza crossings end with no concrete results; secretary of state says Syrian officials may be interrogated by U.N. investigators on Jordanian or Egyptian soil

Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice met Monday morning ahead of the scheduled Rabin Memorial Day events around the country.

The meeting centered on the stalled diplomatic process with the Palestinians, and Rice mentioned the possibility that Syrian officials may be interrogated by U.N. investigators on Jordanian or Egyptian soil regarding their role in the Hariri murder.

Sharon reiterated Israel’s position on Hamas’ participation in the upcoming Palestinian elections, saying it would “be a big mistake that would only weaken Abbas.” However, he added that Israel would not interfere in the elections but would prevent Hamas from holding “political gatherings.”

Rice said in response that it would be easier disarm Hamas following the elections with the help of the international community.

“This was the situation in Northern Ireland and Angola,” she said.

Rice said that in any case the U.S. would not hold talks with Hamas and Islamic Jihad even if the groups’ representatives would take power.

“We will not accept a situation whereby terror organizations will remain armed and be a part of the Palestinian governing body,” she said.

As to Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s harsh statement regarding the annihilation of Israel, Rice said, “Each time he opens his mouth it sounds more and more scandalous.”

During her visit Rice expected to bring an end to the dispute on the Gaza border crossings, but recent deliberations on the matter have resolved nothing.

Senior Bush administration officials, as well as Vice Premier Shimon Peres, contend that as long as this issue is not resolved, Israel’s statements regarding the end of the country’s control over Gaza remain baseless.

Israel continues to insist on strict security measures at the crossings, while the Palestinians aim to remove any signs of Israeli sovereignty. Sunday’s meeting between Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz and Palestinian Minister Mohammed Dahlan ended with no concrete results.

The two ministers discussed Israel´s demand that cameras be placed at the Rafah crossing. While Mofaz insisted such cameras are installed, Dahlan maintained they would constitute a breach of Palestinian sovereignty.

Birthday present for Rice

Quartet Envoy James Wolfensohn and his staff are considering leaving the region due to the failure of the current round of talks with Israel and the Palestinians.

“They are willing to give a chance to one final round of talks, but it is clear to all sides involved that in the current reality the deliberations on the implementation of the Road Map for peace initiative have reached a dead end,” an Israeli official told Ynet.

As of now, a diplomatic breakthrough does not seem probable in the near future: Sharon has to deal with inner-Likud issues, namely his ongoing battle with Benjamin Netanyahu, while Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas faces Hamas’ rising political power.

“In the current situation, in which both sides are unwilling to compromise, we may see advancement in the peace process only next spring, following the general elections in Israel,” an Israeli official said.

Earlier Rice met with Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom. Shalom congratulated Rice on her birthday and presented her with a pair of earrings as a birthday present.

´Gave his life for peace´

During Sunday’s Saban Institute convention Rice said, “Now, if Palestinians fight terrorism and lawless violence and advance democratic reforms - and if Israel takes no actions that prejudge a final settlement and works to improve the daily lives of the Palestinian people - the possibility of peace is both hopeful and realistic. Greater freedom of movement is a key for Palestinians, from shopkeepers to farmers to restaurant owners and for all seeking early easier access to their economic livelihood.

“And let us be very clear about one other matter: Dismantling the infrastructure of terrorism is essential for peace because in the final analysis, no democratic government can tolerate armed parties with one foot in the realm of politics and one foot in the camp of terrorism,” she said.

Rice also addressed the 10th anniversary of Rabin’s assassination, saying, “Yitzhak Rabin represented the pioneer spirit of the Israeli heartland - the impatient optimism and rugged determination that helped Israel to turn its barren soil green and to build a new home in its native land and indeed to take up arms when it was necessary against all who denied this nation’s right to exist.

“He was a man who was a pioneer and a warrior and a statesman and a peacemaker. And he approached all of his callings, especially that of peace, with tenacity, and aplomb and a gritty realism - but also with hope and trust and an abiding idealism. After risking death so many times in war, it was for the cause of peace that he ultimately gave his life.” Roee Nahmias contributed to the report First Published: 11.14.05, 10:22 Latest Update: 11.14.05, 15:15 (Copyright © Yedioth Internet. 11/14/05)

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