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Sharon, Abbas to Discuss Implementation of 'Road Map' Peace Plan - 2003-06-06


Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas are expected to meet again in the coming week to assess progress made in implementing the road map to end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. But Mr. Abbas' efforts to end violence may have been thrown in jeopardy following a statement from a Palestinian militant group.

Israeli media report the two prime ministers could meet some time early next week to discuss any progress made since their summit talks with President Bush.

During their summit meeting Wednesday in Aqaba, Mr. Sharon and Mr. Abbas committed themselves to implementing the road map and they are now having to take the first steps.

For Mr. Abbas it will mean cracking down on Palestinian militants and halting attacks against Israel and Israelis. He has been seeking a pledge from militant groups such as Islamic Jihad and Hamas to do just that, but thus far they've refused his demands. Mr. Abbas was expected to renew efforts to try to get a pledge from them to halt the violence. However, Hamas said it will not hold ceasefire talks because it feels that Mr. Abbas made too many concessions to Israel at the Aqaba summit.

For Mr. Sharon, progress in implementing the road map means keeping a promise he made in Aqaba to begin dismantling illegal Jewish settlement outposts in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. According to the Israeli peace group, Peace Now, 117 unauthorized outposts have been created since 1998, but the government acknowledges only around 15 set up over the past two years. Some of the outposts are made up of only a few tents or trailers; some are uninhabited; others have a few families living on them. Jewish hard-liners and settlers oppose the dismantling of any outposts fearing it could lead to the future dismantling of the larger settlements sprinkled throughout the Palestinian territories. The whole controversial issue of settlements is to be discussed in future peace negotiations.

While meetings are taking place to advance this still very tentative peace process, violence has continued. Israeli troops late Thursday shot and killed two Palestinians and wounded and arrested a third in the West Bank town of Tulkarem. The military says the men were wanted militants who were planning a suicide attack against Israel. Police in Jerusalem are saying two young Israelis found dead outside the city on Thursday may have been killed by Palestinians.

Israeli security forces also remain on alert to guard against possible attacks over this holiday weekend of Shavuot or Feast of the Weeks. It's when Jews celebrate the harvest season and also commemorate the giving of the Ten Commandments to Moses on Mount Sinai.