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Palestine: Truce Talks Begin Amid Factions Consent

PM Qurei' Kicks Off Truce Talks Wednesday Amidst Factions Consent

RAMALLAH, Palestine, November 19, 2003 (IPC + Agencies)-- The Palestinian Prime Minister Ahmad Qurei' along with the Egyptian mediators will head to Gaza on Wednesday to kick off the truce talks with the Palestinian resistance factions, as hopes increase in a prospected meeting between him and his Israeli counterpart, Ariel Sharon.

Palestinian sources confirmed that Prime Minister Qurei' and an Egyptian delegation would arrive Wednesday to the city of Gaza to discuss the possibility of a new ceasefire with the Palestinian resistance factions.

Informed sources told IPC correspondent that so far, five factions have given preliminary consent for the truce talks: the Islamic Jihad movement, the Islamic resistance movement (Hamas), Fateh movement, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) and the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine (DFLP).

PM Qurei' and the Egyptian brokers were aided by an Israeli offer to freeze its policy of extrajudicial execution of Palestinian resistance activists, as long as there was a complete halt to attacks against Israelis.

"We will listen to Abu Ala (PM Qurei') and our Egyptian brothers," said Khaled al-Batesh, an Islamic Jihad leader.

Also, Hamas said it agreed to talk with the three-member Egyptian delegation but had not yet set a meeting with Qurei', Reuters reported.

"We are not willing to repeat failed experiences. A truce is a commitment by both sides and does not work unilaterally," Mahmoud Al Zahhar, a senior Hamas leader, told Reuters, referring to the collapsed ceasefire that the Egyptians brokered last June, due to the Israeli continued assassination policy.

The Gaza meetings come after the Egyptian Intelligence chief, Omar Suleiman, met on Monday with the Palestinian President Yasser Arafat and PM Qurei' in the presidential premises in Ramallah City.

PM Qurei', whose full cabinet took office last week, has said his cabinet's first priority is a truce.

He plans to come to agreement on a cease-fire with the various Palestinian factions and then bring Israel into the accord, Haaretz Israeli Daily ( online edition) said.

Several Palestinian and Israeli sources talked about a summit, holding the Palestinian premiere and his Israeli counterpart, after the latter's return from a three-day visit to Italy. PM Qurei' conditioned his meeting with Sharon by a complete halt of all Israeli military escalations and aggressions in the Palestinian territories.

A truce would be a key element to restarting the frozen internationally-backed "Road Map" peace plan, which leads to a Palestinian state in 2005.

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