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Arafat Agrees to Resume Security Cooperation with Israel - 2002-02-26


Israel and the Palestinians are resuming security talks in an effort to reduce violence after 17 months of conflict. A new peace initiative by Saudi Arabia is gaining support in Israel.

Security talks between both sides are considered critical to reducing the relentless violence in Israel and the Palestinian territories.

The Palestinians recently suspended participation in such talks after the Israeli government said it would continue to keep Chairman Yasser Arafat confined to Ramallah.

Israeli officials decided to relax the siege on the Palestinian leader's headquarters, but he is still not allowed to travel outside the West Bank city.

Mr. Arafat agreed to resume security cooperation after a meeting with EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana. The European envoy says such cooperation is needed to bring down the bloodshed. "I think it is very important and will be a step to maintain and to support the cease-fire, which is a very delicate thing that has to be defended everyday to be maintained," Javier Solana said.

Mr. Solana will cut short his visit to Israel and the Palestinian Territories to travel to Saudi Arabia for talks with Crown Prince Abdullah.

Israeli Defense Minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer says a peace proposal suggested by the crown prince contains "new elements and should therefore be encouraged and must not be rejected."

Crown Prince Abdullah has offered a plan that calls for Arab states to recognize Israel in return for a full Israeli withdrawal from all territory captured in the 1967 Middle East war.

Mr. Solana will be the first senior diplomat to discuss the proposal with the crown prince, face-to-face, since it was floated in a newspaper article earlier this month.

Mr. Arafat has welcomed the Saudi initiative, but Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon has not commented publicly on the plan. Israeli newspaper editorials urged Mr. Sharon to consider the proposal to normalize relations with the Arab world and end the current conflict with the Palestinians.

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