Sharon will meet Abbas in Ramallah
* Israeli ministers will discuss releasing Palestinians on Sunday
JERUSALEM: Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon is ready to meet Palestinian leader Mahmud Abbas in the West Bank city of Ramallah, an aide to Sharon said on Wednesday.
The comment followed a landmark summit in Egypt on Tuesday where the two leaders agreed to a ceasefire to end more than four years of bloodshed in the Middle East.
In Sharm, Sharon’s spokesman said the premier had invited Abbas to his farm in Israel’s southern Negev desert and held out the possibility of a meeting in Ramallah, the political capital of the Palestinian Authority.
Meanwhile, Israeli ministers will discuss on Sunday who will make up the first batch of 500 Palestinian detainees to be freed by Israel following a landmark Middle East summit, an official source said on Tuesday. “The inter-ministerial committee on prisoners is due to meet just before the next weekly cabinet meeting to discuss the 500 prisoners Israel is committed to releasing,” said a statement from the Sharon’s office.
Headed by Sharon, the committee includes among others, Deputy Prime Minister Shimon Peres, Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom and Defence Minister Shaul Mofaz. “Israel is going to release hundreds of Palestinian prisoners,” Sharon earlier told a summit in Egypt where he met Abbas — the first top-level meeting between the two sides in more than four years..
Government spokesman Avi Pazner said Israel would release 500 prisoners in the coming days and another 400 after their cases had been examined by a joint Israeli-Palestinian committee. Israel said on Wednesday it would soon readmit Palestinian workers from Gaza and lift some West Bank roadblocks.
Israel’s Defence Ministry said an initial 1,000 workers and hundreds of traders from Gaza would be issued permits in coming days to enter Israel, restoring an economic lifeline to the dusty, slum-ridden coastal territory that has been largely severed because of violence since 2000.
Envoys from the Middle East quartet - the United States, Russia, the United Nations and the European Union - will attend a Palestinian conference set for March 1-2 in London, Britain confirmed on Wednesday. The Foreign Office said it had sent invitations a few days ago, and that delegates from the international group seeking to promote peace in the Middle East would be attending. “As Condoleezza Rice and Prime Minister Tony Blair will be there, we are hoping the quartet will be represented at a senior level,”
Underlining lingering tension, witnesses said a Palestinian man of 20 was critically wounded by gunfire from a Jewish settlement in occupied Gaza on Wednesday, while a Hamas militant was killed while preparing a bomb. agencies
Pakistan welcomes ceasefire
ISLAMABAD: Pakistan on Wednesday welcomed the ceasefire deal that emerged from this week’s Palestinian-Israeli summit as a “good beginning” towards a lasting Middle East settlement. “This step should prove to be a good beginning towards restarting the stalled Middle East peace process through renewed and earnest engagements,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Masood Khan said. Palestinian leader Mahmud Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon on Tuesday agreed to a ceasefire at Sharm el-Sheikh summit in Egypt. “We hope this ceasefire will endure and create space for peace. The cycle of atrocities and violence must come to an end,” Khan said. “We also hope that an enabling environment will be created for the protection of the rights of the Palestinians and a lasting settlement.” afp