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Breakdown in Palestinian Cease-Fire Talks Described as Setback - 2003-12-07


The breakdown of cease-fire talks between Palestinian factions in Cairo is being described as a setback in efforts to bring about peace in the Middle East.

The two authors of a non-governmental Middle East peace agreement, known as the Geneva Accord, weighed in with their view of the collapsed talks in Cairo.

Yasser Abed Rabbo, former Palestinian Authority information minister, told CNN's Late Edition he had expected a positive result. "I am surprised, yes, because I think there were efforts that that were exerted by the Egyptian government. But I hope that the Israeli government will not make benefit out of the collapse," he said.

Instead, Mr. Abed Rabbo called on the Israeli government to take steps Palestinians will see as positive, such as putting an end to military incursions into Palestinian territories, demolition of Palestinian homes and the building of a security barrier around Palestinian areas.

The other Geneva Accord author, former Israeli Justice Minister Yossi Beilin, said he is not surprised the talks broke down. Mr. Beilin added that extremists on both sides are threats to lasting peace. "I must say that I would like very much to see a ceasefire. I believe that a kind of a coalition between the Palestinian authority and the Hamas and Islamic Jihad is a very artificial one and I would like to see a coalition of sanity between pragmatic Israelis and pragmatic Palestinians, who are fighting against their extremists," he said.

The main sticking point was the issue of the nature of the ceasefire. Palestinians had said they would stop suicide bombings in Israel. But disagreement centered around attacks on Israeli soldiers and civilians in the Occupied Territories.

Dore Gold, adviser to Israeli President Ariel Sharon, alluded to this point, as he renewed his government's commitment to the peace plan known as the road map for peace. "Israel's not a party to this internal Palestinian discussion in Cairo, which essentially sounded like a discussion between men in suits about which Israelis you can kill and which Israelis you can't kill. Obviously, we can't give this our blessing. What we can give a blessing to is the vision in the road map, the specific call for an unconditional ceasefire, with security steps, like dismantling the terrorist infrastructure," he said.

In Washington, Democratic Senator Chris Dodd called the failure of Palestinian factions to come to a ceasefire agreement a major blow to peace efforts. "The real hope was we could get some sort of ceasefire agreement here, hopefully one that went beyond just the West Bank and ilitary targets or civilian targets. The fact that this has collapsed, if that news is correct, is a major setback," he said.

On CNN both Senator Dodd and Republican Senator Chuck Hagel called on the Bush administration to be more actively engaged in trying to resolve the Mideast Crisis. "What I'd like to see happen is someone get in there, day to day, minute to minute, representing the president of the United States, like the president himself announced a few months ago when he said that my National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice was going to be, day to day, running this show. I haven't seen that," said Senator Hagel.

Senator Hagel said it is up to the United States to try to bring the parties together. The longer the delay, he warned, the more dangerous the situation will become.

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