Israel, Palestinians Meet Tenet after Accord on Ceasefire Plan
Israeli and Palestinian officials wrapped up a meeting Wednesday with CIA director George Tenet to discuss implementation of his ceasefire plan, Israeli army radio reported, cited by AFP.
The meeting lasted for some four hours in Tel Aviv, the radio said, without giving details about its results.
Tenet secured agreements from Israel and the Palestinians on the "work plan" after five days of intensive talks to secure a truce following ceasefires declared independently by the two sides.
"This meeting is the beginning of the implementation of the security work plan," a US official was quoted as saying before the talks started.
Earlier, Palestinian leaders voiced reservations about Tenet's ceasefire plan, despite Palestinian President Yasser Arafat's acceptance of the proposals, said AFP.
Information Minister Yasser Abed Rabbo said they had given "conditional" approval to the Tenet plan, but had rejected proposals for buffer zones between Israel and the Palestinian territories and the arrest of militants.
The Palestinians also insisted that the choking Israeli blockade in and around the West Bank and Gaza Strip, "and all forms of collective punishment," must be lifted 48 hours after the Tenet plan comes into force.
"These conditions were presented in an official letter to Tenet personally," Abed Rabbo told Voice of Palestine radio.
Washington confirmed Tuesday that Arafat had agreed to the plan, which is aimed at halting the escalating situation in the Palestinian territories and paving the way for the implementation of recommendations by the US-led Mitchell commission on confidence-building measures and a resumption of peace talks.
"Steps will be taken immediately to implement the work plan," a senior US State Department official said after a lengthy evening meeting between Tenet and Arafat in the West Bank town of Ramallah.
But Abed Rabbo, confirming that a meeting was due to take place Wednesday with Israeli officials, said the document had yet to be signed.
"The signing will take place only when we have reached an accord on the implementation of the Mitchell plan and the halt of all settlement activity. We will not sign the document until we see how the other side is going to act," he said.
"We have restated that the Mitchell report does not contain anything about arrests and we are not bound by anything which is not in the Mitchell report," Abed Rabbo said
HAMAS: WE'LL OPPOSE ANY TRUCE THAT INCLUDES ARRESTS
The Palestinian Hamas movement said Wednesday that it would oppose any truce proposal that included demands for the Palestinian Authority (PA) to arrest members of Hamas and Islamic Jihad, Israel Radio reported.
The radio quoted Hamas spokesman Mahmoud Zahar as saying that all Palestinians and all Palestinian organizations had participated in the Intifada, and that it was unjust to single out members of these groups for arrest.
He stressed that Hamas desired no confrontation with the PA.
According to Tenet’s plan, the PA should send back to jail dozens of Islamists accused of masterminding anti-Israeli attacks.
PERES: TEST OF CEASEFIRE WILL BE ARAFAT'S ‘ANTI-VIOLENCE’ EFFORTS
Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres said Wednesday that the test of the ceasefire would not be an absolute cessation of all violence, rather the intensity of Yasser Arafat's efforts to prevent “terrorism and arrest militants.”
Peres, speaking to Israel’s Army Radio from France, said of Tenet's ceasefire proposal that he had strenuously lobbied "leaders in Europe to influence Arafat not to make the same mistake and say no yet another time. Had Arafat said no, the entire Mitchell plan would have collapsed and crashed."
Asked if Israel expected "100 percent success" from Arafat in curbing “violence,” Peres said:
"There is no point in demanding less. Neither do I think there need be 'discounts'." But he added that according to the language of the Mitchell Commission report, "If Arafat makes a 100 percent effort there will be 100 percent results, from his standpoint. As in the past, when he proved himself capable of doing this," Haaretz newspaper quoted him as saying.
In a reference to statements by aides to Prime Minister Ariel Sharon that every time a single rock is thrown, the "clock" measuring the cooling-off period before confidence-building measures would begin will be reset to zero, Peres said:
"The moment the ceasefire ends, the zero clock will stop. But if the effort continues, if there's a case in which Arafat tried to “prevent a terrorist attack” and did not succeed, that's one thing. But if there's an attack that Arafat did not try to prevent, that's something different.”
According to Israeli media reports, Tenet's plan also requires an immediate Israeli withdrawal of its forces to positions before the eight-month Palestinian uprising broke out.
The Palestinians would have to immediately enforce the ceasefire, and -- while arresting about 20 militants from the Hamas and Islamic Jihad movements -- collect all illegal weapons in areas under their control, the reports said.
At the end of a six-week cooling-off period, the two sides should then start implementing confidence-building measures called for by the Mitchell report, they said.
The Mitchell Commission called for an immediate ceasefire, an Israeli freeze on settlement-building, and full Palestinian efforts to prevent "terrorism" in order to move back to the negotiating table.
Meanwhile, United Nations chief Kofi Annan held talks with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak in Cairo.
Sources close to Mubarak told AFP that Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Maher and an Annan advisor were also participating in the talks at the presidential palace in northern Cairo.
Annan told reporters upon arrival Tuesday there was "encouraging" news that both parties had accepted -- albeit with reservations -- the Mitchell proposals and a ceasefire, which he termed a "very important first step."
"For the ceasefire to hold in the longer term we need to embed it in the peace process," Annan said. "And I hope during my visit here I will be able to encourage the parties to move in that direction."
The United States, Europeans, Russians and Arabs "have all agreed we should push for the full implementation of the Mitchell plan," which calls for an immediate ceasefire, the UN chief said - Albawaba.com
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