Sharon rules out Egyptian mediation between Israel and Palestinians
Israel's Prime Minister Ariel Sharon said Wednesday that while he attached great importance to talks with the Egyptians on their role in the Gaza Strip, he did not plan to allow Cairo to mediate between Israel and the Palestinians.
Sharon has insisted he would not negotiate his unilateral withdrawal plan with the Palestinians, saying they are "uninterested" in peace.
Sharon made these comments in a meeting with Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz, Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom and military officials ahead of their meetings with Egyptian intelligence chief Omar Suleiman, Haaretz reported.
Sharon said the talks with Suleiman will focus on security and the prevention of arms smuggling into Gaza. Israeli officials said they would not agree to Egypt's demand to stop military strikes in the Strip once a delegation of 200 Egyptian security advisers arrives there to train Palestinian security forces.
Suleiman met with Palestinian president Yasser Arafat in Ramallah midday Wednesday, after meeting with representatives from the European Union and United Nations. Despite Sharon's rejection of an Egyptian mediation role, Suleiman told the international officials that Egypt was determined to move Sharon's disengagement plan forward with cooperation from both Israel and the Palestinians.
"We attach huge importance to Egyptian activity in the Gaza Strip and along the border, but I don't intend to allow Egypt to become a mediator between Israelis and Palestinians," Sharon said. He added he would not allow Egypt to raise the issue of Israeli-Palestinian talks in Gaza or of comprehensive Israeli-Palestinian negotiations. The disengagement plan, he said, would remain unilateral.
Sharon said renewing negotiations with Palestinians via Egyptian mediation would thwart the disengagement plan and endanger the internationally backed road map to peace. (Albawaba.com)
© 2004 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com)