U.S. envoy Zinni back in Middle East on Thursday
The United States will send envoy Anthony Zinni back to the region on Thursday for a second round of talks, aimed at brokering a cease-fire between the sides, according to Tel Aviv based HaArtez.
U.S. Ambassador to Israel, Dan Kurtzer phoned Israel Prime Minister Sharon’s office Tuesday and informed him of Zinni’s return to the Middle East, thus confirming Palestinian Cabinet Minister Saeb Erekat’s statement on Zinni’s arrival.
According to U.S. sources, the Retired Marine General will stay in the region for four days and will be accompanied by Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs. Zinni’s mission will be to ensure that Arafat is “cracking down on terrorists” and “assuming that happens, to encourage Israelis to ...ease closures”, the U.S sources added.
During Zinni’s first two-week visit in the region, violence between Israel and the Palestinians had erupted once again. Zinni ended his visit following the attack against a bus in Emmanuel, which resulted in the killing of ten Israelis. Following the attack, the Israeli cabinet made a decision to declare Palestinian President Arafat “irrelevant”. At the time, U.S. officials criticized Arafat for not making enough efforts to prevent attacks by the Palestinian militants.
Since then, President Arafat has arrested Hamas and Islamic Jihad militants. A drop in attacks has been noted since President Arafat’s speech in mid-December calling his people to observe a cease-fire. Sharon, on his part, has said that Arafat needs to do more in order for the peace talks to resume. (www.albawaba.com)
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