Rice hails Abbas efforts to confront armed groups
Visiting Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice praised Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas on Saturday for steps he has taken to clamp down on armed groups, but added that more Palestinian efforts are needed.
"I want to take this opportunity to commend President Abbas and his leadership as well as that of his government for their ongoing effort to enforce the rule of law in the West Bank and in Gaza," Rice said, speaking at a news conference after her meeting with Abbas.
"These efforts demonstrate the Palestinian leadership's commitment to ensuring security and tracking down those that perpetrate violent attacks," Rice said, calling on Abbas to continue these efforts. "There is much work to be done," she said.
Rice met with Abbas, Prime Minister Ahmed Qurei and Palestinian Interior Minister Nasser Yousef, who is in charge for the Palestinian security forces.
"Rice demanded more Palestinian efforts to consolidate the truce," said Palestinian Planning Minister Ghassan Khatib, who attended one of the meetings.
Rice also had strong words for the Israelis as she said free movement for the Palestinians was vital. "That means when the Israelis withdraw from Gaza, they cannot be sealed or isolated as an area, with the Palestinian people closed in after that withdrawal," Rice said, according to The AP.
Rice concluded that she is in constant contact with James Wolfensohn, the Middle East Quartet's Special Envoy to help oversee Israel's planned withdrawal from the Gaza Strip and parts of the West Bank and General William Ward, the US coordinator of the US withdrawal, to make a successful withdrawal on the way of reaching a two- state solution via creating an international, regional and local climate supports such solution.
Abbas said the Gaza withdrawal must be the first step toward progressing with the "road map" peace plan, which calls for the establishment of a Palestinian state alongside Israel. "Israel should be aware that the withdrawal from Gaza must be a step in the road map and must be followed immediately with the resumption of the political process," Abbas said. Abbas also called on Israel to stop expanding West Bank settlements.
On his part, PM Qurie affirmed the necessity of having clarifications from Israeli side about the status of the north West Bank after Gaza withdrawal. He called on American Administration to immediately intervene and compel Israel to stick to tranquility and stop its assassinations, arrests and sweeping into all Palestinian governorates.