Israel must quit West Bank, says Abbas
LONDON: Lasting peace will not come to the Middle East until Israel leaves the West Bank as well as the Gaza Strip, and many Israelis know it, Palestinian Authority president Mahmoud Abbas said Monday.
In an interview with the BBC World Service, Abbas called the withdrawal of Israeli settlers from Gaza “a basic step” on the part of Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon that needed to be treated “seriously”. “I believe the withdrawal will lead to security and stability in the region,” he said, speaking in Arabic through an interpreter.
“However, we want this step to be followed by further withdrawals, because the rest of our homeland, the West Bank, is still under occupation.” “The step that Sharon is taking (in Gaza) must be followed by further steps that will lead to a lasting peace in the region.”
Abbas added: “I am optimistic. I see many people in Israel convinced of the need to dismantle settlements.” “A few months ago this would have been impossible. Today they are convinced that this is the road to peace and security. If they want peace, they must allow the Palestinians to achieve their rights.”
Abbas said, as Israel launched its pullout from the Gaza Strip, that the move was insufficient and he called for an end to occupation of other territories too. “The Israeli withdrawal that has begun today is an important and historic step that shouldn’t only happen in Gaza but also the West Rank and the rest of the land reaching to the 1949 borders,” he told the Palestinian government-controlled Wafa News Agency. agencies