A meeting between Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas ended in disappointment Tuesday with the Palestinians saying it did not meet their expectations. The meeting was overshadowed by an increase in violence in recent days and a resumption of large Israeli security operations.
The meeting in Jerusalem lasted for over two hours. According to some witnesses it was fraught with a good deal of tension, no handshake at the end and with apparently disappointing results.
President Abbas was expected to hold a news conference in Ramallah afterwards, but in the end it was his Prime Minister, Ahmed Qureia, who spoke with reporters. Mr. Qureia said the talks were difficult and did not meet expectations. Negotiator, Mohammed Dahlan was quoted as saying nothing came out of the meeting and Palestinian officials blamed what they saw as Mr. Sharon's intransigence for the lack of progress.
|Ariel Sharon, right, with Mahmoud Abbas (file photo) |
The meeting was the first between the two leaders since their summit in Egypt four months ago, when then announced a halt to hostilities.
But, the truce has been fragile and tenuous. Tuesday's meeting was to focus on coordinating efforts for a calm and orderly Israeli withdrawal from Gaza in a few months time, but security apparently dominated the session after an upsurge in violence in recent days. An Israeli security sweep in the West Bank and the detention of more than 50 Islamic Jihad militants just hours before the summit also overshadowed the meeting.
Israeli officials had made it clear they were not happy with what they see as Mr. Abbas' soft approach toward Palestinian militants and they demand tougher action.
The Palestinians were looking for greater Israeli flexibility to further ease restrictions on Palestinians and to release more Palestinian prisoners from Israeli jails.
Mr. Sharon's office did say Israel had promised to turn control of the West Bank towns of Bethlehem and Qalquilya back to the Palestinians if they presented a plan to rein in the militants.