No breakthrough in Israeli-Palestinian talks
* Qorei and Sharon chiefs of staff to meet next week
LONDON: Israeli and Palestinian officials wrapped up two days of informal negotiations on Friday, saying the talks had been constructive but not yielded any breakthroughs.
Participants, who included Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat’s security adviser and a son of Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, were unable to resolve their differences over the US-backed “road map” peace plan. Both the Palestinians and the Israelis have formally accepted the plan, although Israel has added 14 reservations to its acceptance. Arafat’s security adviser, Jabril Rajoub, said the Palestinians are committed to the peace plan. But a senior Israeli official who attended the talks questioned whether the Palestinians were ready for an unconditional halt to violence.
In Ramallah, Palestinian Prime Minister Ahmed Qorei announced on Thursday that his cabinet director would meet next week with the chief of staff of his Israeli counterpart Ariel Sharon. The Palestinian Authority could adopt the unofficial Geneva Initiative if it gains support from other key players in Middle East peace talks, one of its representatives abroad has said.
Violence: A 20-strong Israeli military convoy late Friday night staged an incursion into Atara, a Palestinian town southwest of Jenin, in the northern West Bank. The army imposed a curfew on Atara where troops proceeded to conduct house-to-house searches hunting for Palestinian militants, said the sources, adding that gunshots were heard in the area.
A member of the Palestinian security services was killed by Israeli troops on Friday in the northern Gaza Strip. Sayad Abu Safra, 35, was trying to prevent a mentally deranged individual from approaching the northern Jewish settlement of Dugit when the soldiers opened fire. On Thursday, the Israeli army admitted on Thursday that three Palestinians who were shot dead by soldiers late Wednesday were unarmed, retracting an earlier statement which claimed the troops had killed two gunmen.
Meanwhile, Israel’s army is considering a proposal to replace soldiers with private security guards to protect isolated Jewish settlements in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, the army weekly Bamahane said on Friday. —Agencies