Bitter Abbas-Sharon summit makes little headway
JERUSALEM (AFP) - An unprecedented summit between the Palestinian and Israeli leaders broke up in Jerusalem amid bitter arguments and recriminations over continuing violence, yielding few tangible results.
Palestinian officials at the meeting said Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon began the two-hour summit with a humiliating 20-minute lecture to Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas about his failure to halt militant attacks.
An angry Abbas responded by saying he had done everything possible to bring calm to the region and rejected demands to disarm militant factions.
Although officials said agreement had been reached in principle on a number of issues, Sharon linked any progress to the Palestinians' ability to "dismantle the terrorist infrastructure" of factions such as Islamic Jihad.
Palestinian prime minister Ahmed Qorei, who also attended the talks at Sharon's west Jerusalem residence, told a post-summit news conference that "none of the issues improved or progressed up to the levels of our people's expectations".
"Overall what was presented to us was not convincing or satisfying at all," Qorei added.
Abbas had been expected to address the news conference, and his absence underlined the impression of failure.
Another Palestinian official said Sharon began the summit with a "20-minute lecture that Palestinian efforts in the fight against terrorism were not enough".
Abbas said he had "done everything" to shore up the truce and had "no mandate from the people" to disarm armed Palestinian groups.
Sharon's spokesman confirmed that Israel had offered to transfer security control to the Palestinians in the West Bank towns of Bethlehem and Qalqilya provided the Palestinians act against militants -- a proviso that has halted similar transfers in the past.
"We are offering (the transfers) if they will make the necessary security plan," Raanan Gissin told AFP, saying the Palestinians "know exactly what that means".
Responsibility for security in both cities should have been transferred weeks ago as part of agreements reached at the pair's previous summit in Egypt's Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh on February 8.
Gissin said Sharon was willing to free more of the 7,000-plus Palestinians held in Israeli prisons but similarly on condition that Abbas's regime "stop fugitives, put militants under control and prevent terrorist activity."
In a speech after the summit, Sharon demanded a "total end to terrorism" for progress on an internationally drafted peace plan known as the roadmap which targets the creation of a Palestinian state alongside a secure Israel.
"We want to make progress with the Palestinians so we can implement the roadmap but that will not be possible until there is a complete end to terrorist attacks," said Sharon.
The sour atmosphere at the summit -- the first time that top-level leaders from the two sides had met in the holy city -- was in stark contrast to the last meeting, when both men declared an end to hostilities.
Abbas had managed to persuade militant factions to call a de facto ceasefire at the start of the year, but the quiet has been unravelling in recent days.
In a highly embarrassing incident for Abbas, a Gaza woman was arrested Monday allegedly on her way to bomb a hospital on behalf of a faction linked to his Fatah movement.
Her detention came hours after Palestinian gunmen shot dead a Jewish settler in a West Bank attack claimed by Islamic Jihad which also took part in a deadly attack on an Israeli army post on Sunday.
In response, Israeli troops arrested some 50 Jihad members overnight. The army had suspended such operations except in cases where militants were thought to be on the verge of an attack.
As the summit began, witnesses said an unmanned Israeli spy plane fired two missiles in northern Gaza without causing injuries.
US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, who met both leaders at the weekend, warned that time was running out for them to coordinate this summer's Israeli pullout from the Gaza Strip.
Gissin said the Israelis had approved Palestinian plans at the summit for a deep seaport in Gaza after the pullout and would not obstruct plans to reopen a mothballed airport in the south of the territory.
The radical Hamas movement, which criticised Abbas's decision to meet Sharon in Jerusalem, concluded that the summit had "not brought any positive results."
"The Palestinian people did not pin any hopes on its outcome as experience has taught us that Israel just maneuvers and prevaricates," spokesman Mushir al-Masri said.
FAIR USE NOTICE
This site contains copyrighted material the use of which has not always been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. We are making such material available in our efforts to advance understanding of environmental, political, human rights, economic, democracy, scientific, and social justice issues, etc. We believe this constitutes a 'fair use' of any such copyrighted material as provided for in section 107 of the US Copyright Law. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, the material on this site is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. For more information go to: http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/17/107.shtml. If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond 'fair use', you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.