Arafat Urges Real Not Cosmetic RoadMap Moves
Arafat Urges ‘Real’, Not ‘Cosmetic’ Implementation of ‘Roadmap’
Abbas, Sharon to Meet Wednesday, Dahlan and Mofaz Sunday
President Yasser Arafat called on the “Quartet” of international mediators to start a “real” implementation of the “roadmap” peace plan, describing what has been implemented so far as “cosmetic” steps, at a time when the Palestine National Authority’s (PNA) cabinet refused to discuss the Israeli idea of allowing Arafat to move to Gaza.
Arafat reconfirmed the Palestinian leadership’s commitment to the internationally-adopted, US-sponsored “roadmap” to peace in the Middle East, and called on the Quartet of the US, UN, EU and Russian diplomatic mediators “to start implementing the roadmap and to secure effective international monitoring”.
President Arafat was speaking on Saturday in Ramallah following the signing of a cooperation agreement between the Orient House in occupied east Jerusalem and a French city.
On a separate occasion on Saturday, Arafat described the initial steps taken so far for the implementation of the “roadmap” as “cosmetic.”
Israeli Occupation Forces (IOF) began a partial withdrawal from areas in the northern Gaza Strip last Sunday, and pulled out of the southern West Bank town of Bethlehem on Wednesday, transferring security responsibility to the PNA.
But the Gaza Strip is still under military siege while the IOF are still deployed under the pretext of protecting illegal Jewish settlements inside the Strip.
Similarly, the IOF withdrew from Bethlehem but maintained a military closure on the West Bank Governorate.
Arafat meanwhile urged “real” implementation of the “roadmap.”
“I have received a delegation from the Governorate (of Bethlehem). Their trip from Bethlehem to Ramallah lasted four and a half hours for a trip that usually last 15 minutes,” he said.
Responding to a question on Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s statement that the Israeli government is willing to consider allowing him to move to Gaza, Arafat said: “This means to move from one prison to another. I don’t beg anybody.”
On Saturday, “the PNA Cabinet refused to discuss the idea of permitting President Yasser Arafat to move to Gaza and insisted that the freedom of the president is a one integral whole,” the official Palestinian news agency WAFA reported.
Further Palestinian-Israeli meetings Scheduled
However, further Palestinian-Israeli talks were scheduled to take place between the PNA premier Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen) and his Israeli counterpart Sharon on Wednesday, a source in Abbas’ office said Saturday, saying the two would discuss ways to advance the “roadmap.”
The PNA cabinet on Saturday approved holding another meeting between Abbas and Sharon this week, WAFA reported.
There was no confirmation by the Israeli side.
Separately, the Palestinian Minister of State for Security Affairs Mohammed Dahlan was set to meet with Israeli “Defense” Minister Shaul Mofaz on Sunday to discuss further Israeli withdrawals from reoccupied Palestinian lands, Dahlan’s office announced.
The PNA cabinet Saturday approved forming joint committees with the Israeli side and decided to propose to Israel the setting up of eight such bodies and entrusted Dahlan to follow up the discussion of further IOF withdrawals with the Israeli side.
The question of further Israeli withdrawals from reoccupied Palestinian lands will be on the agenda, Dahlan’s office said.
The issue of freeing Palestinians detained in IOF’s jails will also be discussed, the PNA information minister Nabil Amre announced, following the weekly meeting of the Palestinian cabinet in Gaza Saturday.
The Dahlan-Mofaz meeting was suggested during talks between Abbas and Sharon in Jerusalem on Tuesday, at which both Dahlan and Mofaz were both present.
Also Sunday, the director of Israel's Shin Beth domestic security service, Avi Dichter, was to present a list of more than 100 Palestinian prisoners his organization recommends for release, Israeli public radio reported, saying the list was drawn up at Sharon's request.
Israel says it is holding 6,000 Palestinian “prisoners,” including 1,600 arrested before the beginning of the Intifada (uprising) in September 2000. Palestinian sources raise the number to around 8,000.
The PNA cabinet on Saturday mandated the Minister of Detainees Hisham Abdul Razeq to follow up the issue with the Israeli side.
Meantime Israel radio said US envoy John Wolf would return to the region next week with a team of observers, whose job it would be to patrol the Palestinian territories.
There was no immediate confirmation from the US embassy in Tel Aviv.