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Sharon: Week Without Violence or No Talks - 2001-11-18

Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon says he is sticking to his demand that the Palestinians provide seven days without violence as a pre-condition for reviving the peace process. Mr. Sharon made his remarks at a news conference in Jerusalem with a high-level delegation of European Union officials led by Belgian Prime Minister Guy Verhofstadt.

Mr. Sharon made it clear he will not give up his demand for a full week without violence before Israel agrees to offer any concessions to the Palestinians.

He made his remarks in answer to a question about the U.S. position on how to carry out peace recommendations by former Senator George Mitchell. The Mitchell report calls for a series of confidence-building measures including a freeze on the building of new homes in Jewish settlements in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

Mr. Sharon repeated his position that no such steps could even be contemplated without seven days of complete quiet.

The U.S. government has backed that position, but there is speculation that Secretary of State Colin Powell will announce Monday that he no longer views this requirement as necessary.

That is the belief of European Union Foreign Policy chief, Javier Solana, a member of the visiting delegation, who described Israel's demand for seven days without violence as "silly." EU officials say such a condition is allowing extremists on both sides to hold the peace process hostage with their own acts of violence.

In his meeting with the EU officials, Mr. Sharon advised the European Union to first get its own house in order. He has claimed that EU funds to the Palestinian Authority are buying weapons to be used against Israel.

Mr. Sharon urged the European Union to give the money directly to the Palestinian people to establish factories and jobs and to bypass the Palestinian Authority, which he alleges is supporting terrorism against the Jewish State.