Rice in Israel to revive Middle East peace talks

May 4th, 2008 - 3:03 am ICT by admin  

Tel Aviv, May 4 (DPA) US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has arrived in Israel in a fresh attempt to revive Middle East peace talks by meeting Israeli and Palestinian officials. According to Israeli media, Rice is to meet with Israeli Premier Ehud Olmert in Jerusalem shortly after her arrival late Saturday, and is scheduled to meet Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in Ramallah Sunday.

The two-day visit aims at giving another push to the peace talks between the two sides amid US scepticism that the negotiations, launched at a US-hosted conference in November, will not succeed in achieving framework agreement for two states this year.

Rice, who attended Friday a top-level meeting of representatives of the so-called Middle East Quartet in London, urged Arab states to honour aid pledges made to the Palestinians.

The representatives along with the US secretary of state appealed to all sides to make “every effort” to reach a peace settlement by the end of this year. Rice warned Israel and the Palestinians do not have “unlimited time” to achieve a peace deal.

For the Palestinians, expansion of Israeli settlement blocs inside what will be part of their future statehood - the West Bank and East Jerusalem - is a major stumbling block to progress in the talks.

Earlier Saturday, Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat reiterated that a peace deal could still be brokered this year “if Israel responds to international calls for stopping the settlements.”

Palestinian Premier Salam Fayyad was quoted Saturday as repeating that the Israeli government had not met any obligation especially stopping the expansion of settlements in West Bank.

Fayyad was speaking to the Ramallah-based al-Ayyam daily after he participated at Friday’s London meeting to provide aid to the cash-strapped Palestinian Authority.

Fayyad said he warned the meeting that the continuation of settlement activities inside what the Palestinians hope to be their future state “will make the peace process meaningless.”

In another development Saturday, about 600 members of the Palestinian police force were deployed in the northern West Bank city of Jenin as part of a Palestinian government’s plan to enforce law and order, local officials said.

Top security and local officials welcomed the new force when it arrived in the city after Israel gave it the green light. The force is expected to help the local law enforcement officials fight crime and possession of illegal weapons.

The force, which is expected to stay in the city for three months, was quickly deployed in the city streets, according to witnesses.

The international road map peace plan demands the Palestinians enforce law and order in the Palestinian areas and end the phenomena of armed militias in the West Bank cities. The US has appointed army general Keith Dayton to oversee this mission.

The Palestinian government started a general security plan for all the West Bank cities soon after it took office last June.

As part of the plan, armed militias would turn in their weapons to the Palestinian security and accept to stay inside prisons for three months before they are granted official pardon from Israel. The majority of the militias have accepted this plan.

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