Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres heads Sunday to Cairo and Amman to discuss the Egyptian-Jordanian peace initiative, equipped with the demand that the violence end before negotiations can begin and with a refusal to accept the clause contained in the plan demanding that the government freeze settlement building, said Haaretz newspaper.
Peres will tell the Egyptians and Jordanians that Israel distinguishes between those Palestinians “involved in terror” and those who want to conduct their daily lives in a peaceful fashion, said the paper.
It added that Peres will tell the two leaders that the Israeli government is endeavoring to ease conditions in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
According to the paper, Peres is bringing Jordan and Egypt a proposal for "staged progress toward a final agreement" with the Palestinians as Israel's core response to the two Arab countries' initiative to quell the violence between Israel and the Palestinians.
He will meet separately with Jordanian King Abdullah II and Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak.
According to Peres' idea, progress toward a final agreement would not be an all-or-nothing move, as during the Barak administration, but rather a series of agreements that would integrate elements of confidence-building with elements of the final agreement, the paper added.
After returning from the two Arab states, Peres will update Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and then head off for a visit to the US during which he will meet President George W. Bush and Secretary of State Colin Powell.
On Friday, Sharon said that Israel's priority in the contacts engaged with the Palestinians over the Egyptian-Jordanian peace plan was "the end of terrorism and violence," AFP quoted him as saying.
"The talks which will take place in Egypt and Jordan will be aimed at putting an end to terrorism and violence, which would clear the way for a resumption of negotiations", Sharon's office said in a statement, cited by the agency.
"When the foreign minister returns, we will reevaluate the situation", Sharon said.
Since he took office on March 7, right-wing Likud leader Sharon has made it clear, unlike his Labor predecessor Ehud Barak, that he would refuse to negotiate with the Palestinians as long as the violence continued.
For their part, the Palestinians have repeatedly rejected any changes to the initiative.
Information Minister Yasser Abed Rabbo was quoted as saying on Saturday that Israel's agreement to even discuss the initiative was intended to portray its flexibility in light of international pressure – Albawaba.com
© 2001 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com )