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Sharon to meet Abbas

by: Shimon Shiffer - Last updated: 2005-10-06

Ariel Sharon

Ariel Sharon

Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas are set to meet next week to discuss the principles agreed upon at the Sharm summit in February and to try to renew the peace process following Israel's withdrawal from the Gaza Strip and the northern West Bank.

The last time the two leaders met was in mid-June.

Meanwhile, Yedioth Ahronoth newspaper reported Thursday that Israel is planning to offer Abbas additional goodwill gestures in a bid to boost his position vis-a-vis the Hamas.

The moves considered by Israel include the release of more Palestinian prisoners, opening up a safe passage between Gaza and the West
 
Bank, removing Israeli forces from Palestinian towns, and allowing the return of wanted terror suspects expelled to Europe.

PM Sharon’s associates said Israel plans to meet some of the Palestinian requests expected to be raised during the summer in order to boost the Palestinian leadership’s positions. The sources said Israel is closely following Abbas’ first serious attempts to exercise his control over armed gangs in the Gaza Strip.

King Abdullah of Jordan, who served as mediator between Sharon and Abbas, said Wednesday that the meeting is scheduled for October 11. However, chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat, who is to participate in the meeting, told Ynet a final date has not been determined as of yet.

Israeli officials also declined to confirm the exact date of the meeting, set to take place in Amman.

King Abdullah telephoned Sharon and Abbas Wednesday evening and wished the prime minister a happy New Year and chairman an easy fast with the start of Ramadan.

During the conversation, Sharon said he planned to meet with PA chairman Abbas next week. He also invited the king to visit Israel and the two agreed to meet in the near future.

Abdullah expressed hope that "this month, holy for all nations, will be successful and bring about positive results in the region."

He added that Jordan is committed to helping the two sides advance the peace process.

Sharon is set to convene a meeting Thursday with Senior Advisor Dov Weisglass, in a bid to prepare for next week's meeting.

According to Erekat, the Palestinians plan to take all steps to prepare for the summit as best as possible.

He said the preparation meeting - as well as the actual summit meeting - will deal with implementing the agreed-upon Sharn el-Sheikh summit accords, including Israel's withdrawal from other Palestinian towns, expelled Palestinians in Europe and the Gaza Strip and prisoners currently being held in Israel.

The PA will apparently demand Israel halt all activity in the territories, including expanding the settlements and the construction of the security fence, which would influence a permanent agreement between the two sides, he said.

Erekat added that PA officials are to raise the question of releasing Secretary-General of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) Ahmed Saadat, accused of assassinating government minister Rehavam Zeevi.

Since the leaders meeting at Sharm al-Sheikh - in the presence of Jordanian King Abdullah and Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak - a certain political stagnation has prevailed between Israel and the Palestinian Authority.

Although political and security meetings have been held on a senior level prior to and after Israel's withdrawal, these have mainly dealt with coordination between the two nations and rarely focused on core issues of the political process.

In recent weeks, Israeli officials, including the military intelligence director and Sharon's aide Eyal Arad, have spoken about the possibility of additional unilateral withdrawals.

However, Sharon has made it clear once again that the disengagement as a unilateral step was a one-time move, adding that the two sides are now returning to the stage which he referred to as "pre-Road Map".

Meanwhile, the Palestinian Legislative Council decided Wednesday to establish a parliamentary inquiry committee into the circumstances of Yasser Arafat's death.

"We tend to believe that Israel is involved in his killing," Deputy Chairman of the Palestinian Legislative Council, Hassan Khraisha, told AP.

Diana Bachur-NIr, Ali Waked, Ronny Shaked, and Zvi Zinger contributed to this report

Reproduced with permission: Ynetnews