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PLO Urges Bush to Reconsider Torpedoing ‘Roadmap’

PLO Urges Bush to Reconsider Torpedoing ‘Roadmap’

Arafat: Palestinian State in 2005 Realistic, Overdue

The Palestinian Leadership on Saturday called on Washington to reconsider its full support for the Israeli Prime Minister Sharon’s unilateral plans and accused the US President of effectively torpedoing the Quartet-drafted and UN-adopted “roadmap” peace plan.

The Executive Committee of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) called upon the US Administration “to reconsider its full support for the plans of the Israeli Prime Minister, who announced the peace process dead, and to avert the risks of Ariel Sharon’s exploitation of the (United States’) guarantees and open-ended support to undermine the roadmap and the entire peace process.”

Following a meeting chaired by President Yaser Arafat in the West Bank city of Ramallah, attended also by representatives of national factions, the PLO Executive Committee also called upon the UN Security Council and the international Quartet of the UN, US, EU and Russia to uphold their responsibilities more effectively to bring the peace process back on track.

The PLO urged the “United Nations, the Security Council and the Quartet to more effectively uphold their responsibilities to bring the peace process back on track by implementing the (UN) resolutions and the (signed) accords, and by rejecting unilateral measures,” the Palestinian official news agency WAFA reported.

The PLO reconfirmed “its adherence to the legitimate goals of the Palestinian people and its commitment to the option of a just and comprehensive peace, the peace of the brave, as a strategic option,” said a statement released by WAFA following the meeting of the Palestinian Leadership.

The Leadership reconfirmed that it is “fully prepared to implement its obligations in accordance with the roadmap,” and indicated that, “all Palestinian security agencies and civil institutions are totally and actively committed to their duties to maintain security, (public) order and the rule of law” in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, the statement added.

Ahead of the upcoming Arab summit meeting in Tunis, the PLO also appealed to “Arab and Muslim brother”s, as well as to friends worldwide to morally and materially reinforce the steadfastness of the Palestinian people and their National Authority.

Creation of State of Palestine in 2005 ‘Realistic’

Applauding the UN General Assembly’s Resolution 292/58 on Thursday, which affirmed the Palestinian sovereignty over the Israeli-occupied land in East Jerusalem, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, the PLO said the creation of the Palestinian state by 2005 is “realistic” and rejected any delay in the timetable stipulated in the “roadmap.”

“The establishment of the State of Palestine in 20005 is realistic and the Israeli government is responsible for the past and present delay in the peace process,” the leadership said.

US President George W. Bush said on Saturday the “roadmap” 2005 target for a Palestinian state was unrealistic.

“I readily concede the date has slipped some. I think the timetable of 2005 is not as realistic as it was two years ago,” Bush told the Egyptian semi-official daily Al-Ahram, adding that it “may be hard” to achieve the 2005 target.

“Well, 2005 may be hard, since 2005 is right around the corner,” Bush said.

Arafat: State Ought to Have Been Proclaimed in 1999

Palestinian officials reacted angrily after Bush threw into doubt the 2005 target date for their state, promised by the “roadmap.”

Rejecting Bush’s view, President Yaser Arafat said the creation of a state by 2005 was “more than realistic.”

“It is unrealistic to further put off the creation of a Palestinian state,” Arafat told reporters at his besieged headquarters in Ramallah on Saturday.

“One (a Palestinian state) ought already to have been proclaimed in 1998-99” under the terms of peace agreements already signed with Israel, Arafat indicated.

“According to the agreements we signed at the White House, Wye River, Camp David, Sharm El-Sheikh, Taba and the Mitchell agreement we were supposed to announce the establishment of the Palestinian state by the years 1998 and 1999,” he announced.

Qurei: Postponement ‘Waste of Time’

Palestinian Prime Minister Ahmad Qurei said that postponement of creating the Palestinian state according to the “roadmap” is a waste of time that threatens the peace process.

“We cannot postpone this issue anymore and time is not on the peace process’ side, and postponing it would be just a waste of time and not in the benefit of the region's stability.”

“Losing time neither serves the peace process, nor the stability of this region. Therefore we think 2005 leaves adequate time for serious negotiations (for a state),” Qurei told reporters in Ramallah on Saturday.

Qurei called on Bush to reconsider his statement.

“We have plenty of time to seriously negotiate, if the American administration indeed wants serious negotiations and wants to reach a final agreement,” he said.

Qurie is scheduled to meet Bush’s top security advisor Condoleezza Rice in Germany in mid-May for what would be his highest-level session with US officials since taking office in late 2003.

Erakat: Bush Effectively Torpedoed ‘Roadmap’

Palestinian Cabinet Minister for Negotiations Sa’eb Erakat accused Bush of effectively torpedoing the peace plan drawn up by the European Union, Russia and the United Nations as well as the United States, and published amid great fanfare last June, before it was endorsed by he UN Security Council in resolution 1515 in November.

Erakat said that, “not implementing the timetable for ending the Israeli occupation of the Palestinian territories by Year 2005 is like emptying the roadmap of its contents.”

“President Bush’s position removes any substance from the roadmap by calling into question the timetable for its implementation, which is an essential element of it,” Erakat told AFP.

“In this way, Bush is meeting the demands of (Israeli Prime Minister) Ariel Sharon. Sharon and Israel have always violated the rules of the game and obtained the backing of the Americans,” he added.

Israel Welcomes Bush Comments

Bush enraged the Palestinians and the Arab world by announcing on April 14, during a meeting with Sharon at the White House, that Israel could not be expected to vacate all the large West Bank settlements, illegal under international law, or allow Palestinian refugees to return to the homes they were forced to leave when Israel was created in 1948 under any final treaty, thus prejudicing the so-called final status issues.

Israel welcomed Bush’s comments to Al-Ahram and ruled out any possibility of Palestinian statehood next year.

“The target date of 2005 has become an impossibility because we are still at the starting point of the roadmap as a result of the Palestinian Authority's refusal to combat terrorism,” said Sharon’s foreign policy advisor, Salman Shoval.

“Under these conditions, it’s clear that the 2005 target date is no longer at all realistic.”

The White House said Rice would meet Qurei in Berlin on May 17, and the State Department said Secretary of State Colin Powell would meet unspecified Palestinian officials during a visit to Jordan over the previous two days.

“If you meet Qurei, you are meeting a personal envoy of Yaser Arafat,” Shoval complained alluding to Israel's US-backed policy of boycotting the Palestinian leader.

“But I suppose Washington has its reasons for such a meeting,” he added grudgingly.

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