Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon has Thursday ruled out any compromise on his demand for seven days of total calm before starting cease-fire negotiations with the Palestinians. Mr. Sharon made the remarks hours before leaving for the United States.
Prime Minister Sharon told reporters he remains firm in his position that Israel will not negotiate with the Palestinians without seven days of complete quiet.
The prime minister called on Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat to show a "100 percent effort" by "arresting terrorists, quelling terror groups and collecting weapons" used by militants. Mr. Sharon also said Israel would eventually recognize a Palestinian state if it is formed under a peace agreement and is demilitarized.
The Palestinians say Mr. Sharon's demand for a week of calm blocks chances of ending 14 months of violence because it puts the future of the region in the hands of extremists who want to continue the uprising against Israel.
Prime Minister Sharon is heading to the United States and is scheduled to meet President Bush and other top officials next Monday. Mr. Sharon is expected to discuss the situation in the Middle East and the war on terrorism.
Mr. Sharon's remarks came as U.S. envoy Anthony Zinni continued with a series of discussions with Israeli and Palestinian officials to discuss cease-fire arrangements.
After meeting with Mr. Arafat in the West Bank town of Ramallah, Mr. Zinni said he believes both sides are committed to ending the violence. "I think both sides have suffered far too much in the last months and I think it is time for a change. I am convinced both sides have made a commitment to this and we have made a commitment to help in this process and I think it is important for everyone on all sides, all citizens, to commit to this. We need to end the violence and we need to get back on track toward peace," Mr. Zinni said.
There has been continuing bloodshed since Mr. Zinni began his mission earlier this week.
Late Wednesday, Israeli soldiers shot and killed a Palestinian man in the Gaza Strip. The army says the troops shot the man as he approached them, shouting slogans in Arabic, and ignoring orders to stop.
Israeli soldiers and Palestinian gunmen exchanged fire for hours between the Palestinian village of Beit Jala and the Jewish community of Gilo, which is adjacent to Jerusalem. No injuries were reported.