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Tuesday, June 1, 2004
PNA, Israel Agree to Egyptian Ceasefire Initiative Egypt Sets 3 Conditions to Get Involved

PNA, Israel Agree to Egyptian Ceasefire Initiative
Egypt Sets 3 Conditions to Get Involved, Says Former Ambassador
1 June 2004

Palestine Media Center - PMC [Official arm of the PA]
www.palestine-pmc.com/details.asp?cat=1&id=1325

The Palestine National Authority (PNA) and Israel have reportedly agreed to
an Egyptian ceasefire initiative to bridge the Palestinian-Israeli
differences over Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's unilateral plan to partially
and gradually evacuate the Gaza Strip from the illegal Jewish settlers and
Israeli Occupation Forces (IOF), amid media reports on plans for a
long-awaited meeting between Sharon and his Palestinian counterpart Ahmad
Qurei.

Following an exchange of letters last week and telephone talks between
Sharon and Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak on Monday, Israel announced it
was sending its Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom to Cairo on Wednesday to
discuss with President Hosni Mubarak ways of advancing Israel's
"disengagement" from the Gaza Strip, Ha'aretz reported on Tuesday.

The Israeli foreign ministry said Shalom's visit to Cairo was organized in a
telephone call between Sharon and Mubarak, AFP reported.

The Egyptian state news agency MENA said both Israelis and Palestinians had
accepted an Egyptian plan for a ceasefire, a resumption of peace talks and a
meeting between premiers Sharon and Qurei.

MENA said Sharon had asked Egypt to "install confidence between the two
sides, notably in guaranteeing stability and security in the Gaza Strip and
ending 'acts of violence and terrorism'."

Mubarak replied assuring Egypt's support for "any withdrawal from occupied
Palestinian territories in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank as laid down in
the 'roadmap' aimed at establishing a Palestinian state."

Mubarak added that, "after consultation with the Palestinian Authority,
Egypt has said it is prepared to make every effort to assist the authority
to fulfill its commitment with regard to the roadmap," MENA further
reported.

The Egyptian president was referring to a peace blueprint drafted by the
Quartet of the United Nations, the United States, the European Union and
Russia, and adopted by the UN Security Council in Resolution 1515 in
November.

Mubarak called Sharon on Monday and "reiterated his willingness to advance
(Sharon's) plan," Sharon's office confirmed.

Sharon and Mubarak reportedly agreed to form a joint commission on bilateral
relations.

Sharon refuses to coordinate a Gaza intended withdrawal with the
Palestinians, but has agreed to accept Egypt as a go-between. Last week,
Egyptian intelligence chief Omar Suleiman met with Sharon and Palestinian
President Yaser Arafat to work out security arrangements after an Israeli
pullback.

President Arafat on Sunday said that he was ready to meet with Sharon "if
there is a will for peace," as the PLO reconfirmed that the Palestinian
Leadership is ready to assume its responsibilities to "impose sovereignty,
security and order" in areas from which Israel might withdraw, and called
for dispatching international monitors and protection forces to the Occupied
Palestinian Territory (OPT).

"If Sharon doesn't want to meet with me, then he might meet Prime Minister
Qurei," Arafat told Israeli Channel 10 TV.

Arafat had "approved the Egyptian plan and said he was ready to start
working immediately towards a ceasefire," according to MENA.

He has asked Suleiman "to get Israel to agree to end its attacks and to give
him time to consult with the different Palestinian factions in order to
secure their agreement," the agency said.

Qurei on Monday said his government would "not stand in the way" of an
Israeli withdrawal from Gaza.

There is no timeframe set for the Egyptian plan, but it falls within the
framework of Israel's planned withdrawal from the Gaza Strip and Egypt's
agreement to help maintain security in the territory afterwards, MENA said.

It was put to Sharon and Arafat last week by General Suleiman, at the
request of President Mubarak, the agency said.

Arafat's media adviser, Nabil Abu Rudeineh, confirmed the existence of
Egyptian "proposals" but said their implementation was dependent upon an
Israeli complete withdrawal from the Gaza Strip.

However, the Egyptian plan been "welcomed" by Washington, London, Paris,
Berlin, Madrid and "other capitals," which promised to help equip
Palestinian forces to be able to secure Gaza following a withdrawal, MENA
added.

It said Sharon had "agreed to stop violence, bombings and assassinations, on
condition that the Palestinians remain committed" to an end to hostilities.

Three Egyptian Conditions

Former Egyptian ambassador to Israel Mohammad Basyouni said that Egypt set
three conditions to get involved with Sharon's unilateral plan.

First, the Israeli withdrawal should be complete.

Israel's "Defense" Minister Shaul Mofaz, a firm supporter of Sharon's plan,
told parliament's foreign affairs and defense committee Monday that Israel
wanted to withdraw all its troops from Gaza, including those patrolling the
border with Egypt.

Mofaz was quoted by public radio as saying that a joint working group would
be set up with the Egyptians to study the question of security around the
Rafah border crossing.

Israel had previously said that it planned to retain control of a buffer
zone along the border after any pullout.

Second, a safe corridor should be secured between the Gaza Strip and the
West Bank.

Third, Israel should make guarantees not to invade or reoccupy the Strip,
Basyouni told the Qatar-based Aljazeera satellite TV station on Monday.

However, Sharon said the Israeli withdrawal could be stopped at any time.

"If developments on the ground are negative, there is the possibility of
putting an end to it," an official quoted Sharon as saying after a meeting
with Likud Party legislators on Monday.

Sharon has yet to secure official Israeli adoption of his plan.

On Monday, he asked rebellious Likud Party legislators to accept a revised
Gaza withdrawal plan, but the meeting was cut short after he came under
sharp verbal attack.

On Sunday, Sharon failed to secure a majority in the Cabinet for his Gaza
plan, and postponed a vote until next week.

On May 2, a Likud referendum on Sharon's initial version of the pullout was
rejected by a majority of party members.

In a gesture of goodwill, Sharon also agreed to "meet Ahmed Qurei to discuss
the proposals," MENA said.

Qurei also raised the possibility of a meeting with Sharon in a press
conference in the West Bank city of Ramallah on Monday. "We are ready for
it, especially if we think it is in our interest," he said.

Qurei said he was prepared to meet with Sharon to discuss ways of resuming
the peace process, but only if such a summit "would lead to results," adding
that the PNA was prepared to hold "immediate" negotiations with Israel on
final status issues.

"We are in favor of any meeting which could bring an end to the suffering
(of the Palestinians) and bring about the implementation of the roadmap,"
Qurei said.

"Such a meeting is possible and we are not against it. We are very much in
favor of a meeting which can lead to results," he told reporters after the
weekly cabinet meeting.

Israeli daily Ha'aretz daily reported Sunday that the US administration has
pressured Israel into starting negotiations with the PNA.

Some administration officials have expressed reservations about a unilateral
withdrawal that does not involve an orderly transfer of security
responsibility to Palestinians on the ground, Haaretz said.

Qurei also denounced talk about the need for a new Palestinian leadership.
"The talk about new leaderships must stop," he said. "The Palestinian people
are the only ones who are authorized to choose their leaders."

He ruled out the possibility that the PNA would be able to hold elections
next month. "The situation on the ground does not allow for the elections to
take place," he explained. "We can't hold elections under the occupation."

He dismissed Israeli charges that there is no Palestinian partner for
negotiations. "This charge is untrue and unacceptable," he added. "It is
designed to avoid fulfilling commitments. There is a serious Palestinian
partner that is sincere and determined to reach an agreement on the basis of
international laws and resolutions."

Qurei said the Palestinians are determined to declare their independent
state in 2005 and to reach an agreement with Israel on the final status
issues, including the status of Jerusalem and the refugees. "We have 20
months and I think this is enough to conclude the negotiations on issues
which have already been discussed at length," he said.

"I believe that we can reach an agreement on all the issues in a few
months."

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