Rice calls on Israel to improve lives of West Bankers
US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice on Sunday urged Israel to take more concrete steps to ease the lives of West Bank Palestinians. "We hope to improve the opportunities around the West Bank for people to have economic opportunity in a secure environment," she said after meeting Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas in the West Bank political capital of Ramallah.
Rice told reporters that the changes should have "a real effect on the lives of people," adding that US mediators were "trying to look not just at quantity but also at the quality of improvements."
According to AFP, Rice told reporters that improving conditions in the West Bank depended on "responsible actions" by Abbas' Palestinian Authority which she said "are really now taking place." Rice specifically hailed the decision to deploy some 600 Palestinian police reinforcements to the town of Jenin as part of a security crackdown in the north of the territory aimed at building confidence with Israel.
"I think you are going to see improvements in the West Bank and the Israelis will also really have to do their part," she added.
Abbas told the same press conference that "the negotiations are being carried on every day and every hour. "Everyone seems serious, and expresses hope that we will arrive at an agreement to establish a Palestinian state with its capital in Jerusalem this year," he added.
His spokesman Nabil Abu Rudeina, however, later said "the gulf is still wide in the negotiations with the Israeli side" and urged Washington to put more pressure on Israel to halt the growth of settlements and dismantle outposts.
Rice earlier held a three-way meeting with Israeli Defence Minister Ehud Barak and Palestinian prime minister Salam Fayyad in Jerusalem on attempts to better conditions in the West Bank.