New orders by Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon for the military to crush "militants" in the Gaza Strip will only serve to further undermine the peace process, Palestinian foreign minister Nabil Sha'ath warned.
"This policy will not serve the peace process and I ask the Israeli people to reject this Sharon policy," Sha'ath told reporters Sunday after a meeting with his Japanese counterpart Nobutaka Machimura in the West Bank city of Ramallah.
Sharon told the weekly cabinet meeting he had given the army "carte blanche" to act against the "militant groups", accusing the new Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas of not lifting a finger against the likes of Hamas despite his codemnation of the armed intifada.
Sha'ath said Abbas would head to Gaza on Wednesday for talks with the leaders of the armed factions in a bid to convince them to sign up to a ceasefire. He had previously announced that Abbas would head there on Monday.
"We are ready and our president Abu Mazen is ready for peace. He will go to Gaza to meet with Hamas and Jihad and all the leaders to discuss with them about a ceasefire and to try and reach an agreement with them about this."
Sha'ath contrasted Abbas' stated desire to end the cycle of Israeli-Palestinian violence with Sharon's order to step up military activity. "Abu Mazen is ready to continue the peace process and increase his efforts to succeed in the peace porcess and go back to negotiations but it is clear for us that Sharon is ready to increase the killing and demolitions," he said.
Meanwhile, Egypt's intelligence chief criticized Sharon on Sunday for cutting off contacts with Abbas to protest Palestinian attacks, a senior Israeli official said. Jacob Dayan, a senior adviser to Israeli Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom, said Egyptian intelligence chief Omar Suleiman told him and Foreign Ministry Director General Ron Prosor during a Sunday meeting in Cairo that Sharon had moved too quickly in cutting ties with Abbas. "(He) certainly said that we have to give Abu Mazen more time in order to act," Dayan told Israel Army Radio.
© 2005 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com )