CIA chief George Tenet was to hold talks in Cairo with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak on Saturday after meeting with Israeli and Palestinian security chiefs in the West Bank, while US envoy William Burns returned to push for more negotiations, said reports.
It will be Tenet’s second meeting with Mubarak. He first met him in Cairo upon arriving in the region to shore up a ceasefire declared by the Palestinians and the Israelis. Meanwhile, UN Secretary General Kofi Annan said Friday he would visit the Middle East next week to push international efforts to persuade Israelis and Palestinians to implement the recommendations contained in the Mitchell report.
Annan was quoted by AFP as telling reporters that he would start his tour in Saudi Arabia on Tuesday, would go on to Egypt, Syria, Lebanon and Jordan, and "end up in Jerusalem and Gaza."
Annan said his aim was to get the Israelis and Palestinians to go beyond a ceasefire and embark on a cooling-off period, start implementing confidence-building measures, and renew negotiations as recommended by the Mitchell commission.
The five-man commission, led by former US senator George Mitchell, was set up in October to look into the causes of violence in the Palestinian territories.
"As long as the ceasefire is holding, there is a chance for political movement, but the two parties can't do it alone" because so much mistrust has grown up in recent months, said Annan's spokesman, Fred Eckhard.
Annan "feels that it will take a major push on the part of the international community to get things going in the right direction," Eckhard said.
Following the most recent Tel Aviv suicide bombing, at the urging of US President George W. Bush and other world leaders, Palestinian President Yasser Arafat ordered "a total and immediate ceasefire on Israeli targets.”
Arafat's decision probably pre-empted massive Israeli retaliation and an end to the period of "restraint" ordered by Israeli Premier Ariel Sharon on May 22.
Asked if he was afraid that his mission could be derailed by an act of terrorism, Annan said he would emphasize to both sides that "once they have made the strategic choice for peace, they should stay the course."
They must "not allow the terrorists to lead the game, not allow the terrorists to determine when they meet, when they pursue peace and when they don't," he said.
Annan said he would meet leaders in the Middle East "to seek their views, to exchange ideas, to explore with them how collectively we can work together to end the tragedy and the violence, and move the parties back to the table."
The UN leader said he had been in touch "almost on a daily basis with (US) Secretary of State Colin Powell," as well as the European Union's foreign policy chief Javier Solana and Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov.
"There are no divergences of views or separate initiatives," Annan said.
Annan noted that Tenet and Burns were in the region as part of a two-pronged drive to bolster the ceasefire.
Tenet met Israeli and Palestinian security chiefs together in the Palestinian-run town of Ramallah in the West Bank, against a background of sporadic but reduced violence, said AFP.
The security talks were the first since the devastating suicide bombing outside the Tel Aviv nightclub.
Palestinian officials said they would renew their demands for a complete lifting of Israel's punitive siege on their land, but also said they were willing to hand over recently discovered information on new networks of anti-Israeli militants.
Tenet met with the Israeli and Palestinian security chiefs for nearly three hours at Palestinian offices just a quarter mile from a Ramallah intersection where Israeli forces and Palestinians exchange gunfire almost every Friday. This Friday, those guns were quiet, according to Haaretz.
The meeting ended with an agreement to continue the dialogue between the two sides. Israel was represented by the head of the General Security Service, Avi Dichter, and senior army officers – including the heads of the three regional commands. The Palestinians were represented by Palestinian security chiefs Tawfik Tirawi, Jibril Rjoub, Mohammed Dahlan and Amin Hindi.
Israel demanded that the Palestinians arrest dozens of activists from the Hamas and Islamic Jihad organizations and bring an end to the violence and incitement.
Security sources were quoted by Haaretz as saying the meeting took place in a “satisfactory atmosphere.” However, expectations of future progress stemming from the meeting were low.
None of the officials present at the meeting spoke to the press at the conclusion of the meeting.
Burns, meanwhile, held parallel political meetings with Arafat and Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres, saying he was "working out a plan and timeline" for implementing the Mitchell report.
According to Haaretz, Burns told Peres that the coming week would be "crucial" to efforts to end the “violence” and rebuild the shattered peace process.
While calling on Burns to ensure that the US kept up pressure on Arafat to end the violence, Peres refused to discuss the issue of settlements in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, insisting that Israel would only broach the issue once the violence ended.
Peres did, however, reiterate Israel’s support for the Mitchell report.
After meeting with Arafat, Burns told reporters: "The urgent priority now...is to try and stabilize the security situation and ensure that words are accompanied by deeds and that we are able to translate our calls for an unconditional and immediate cease-fire into a more secure situation on the ground."
Once the truce had been stabilized, Burns said the two sides could "move to the implementation of the Mitchell report."
Since the outbreak of the latest Israeli-Palestinian conflict last September, Reuters reports that Palestinians have killed approximately 88 Israelis with weapons ranging from stones and knives to machineguns and car bombs. The June 1 Tel Aviv suicide bombing raised that toll by at least 20. Israeli military sources have reported well over 600 injuries to Israelis of Jewish descent.
In the same time period, according to CNN, Israeli soldiers and armed Jewish settlers have killed 13 Arab Israelis and 450 Palestinians with weapons ranging from machineguns and tanks to US-made Apache helicopter gunships and F-16s. According to Amnesty International, nearly 100 of the Palestinian dead were children.
Meanwhile, the Palestinian Red Crescent Society has reported over 14,000 Palestinians wounded.
Jewish author Noam Chomsky, who according to a New York Times Book Review article is “arguably the most important intellectual alive,” has been quoted as saying: “State terrorism is an extreme form of terrorism, generally much worse than individual terrorism because it has the resources of a state behind it.” - Albawaba.com
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