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Palestinian Factions Fail to Reach Comprehensive Cease-Fire Agreement - 2003-12-07

A dozen Palestinian factions meeting in Cairo failed to reach agreement on a comprehensive cease-fire offer to Israel. Some Palestinian factions had indicated earlier in the day that agreement had been reached on a conditional cease-fire, which Israel said would be unacceptable.

Palestinian delegates said the three days of talks in Cairo were a failure, and had reached a dead end. They said the factions gave the Palestinian Authority no authorization to pursue peace initiatives with the Israelis.

Palestinian Prime Minister Ahmed Qureia had hoped the Palestinian factions would agree to halt attacks against Israel, so he could take such an agreement to the bargaining table with Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon.

Earlier Sunday, Palestinian factions said an agreement had been reached to end hostilities against Israeli civilians, but not Israeli military personnel or settlers in the West Bank and Gaza strip.

Israeli officials insisted only an end to all hostilities could pave the way for a mutual cease-fire agreement. But Israeli officials also emphasized that they are willing to scale back military operations in the territories, provided the relative quiet of recent weeks is maintained.

Egyptian officials in Cairo told the Palestinian factions that halting attacks against Israeli civilians was not sufficient, and called for a comprehensive cease-fire.

According to Palestinian sources, that is when the talks ended without agreement on any major issues.

The political bureau member of the hard-line Hamas movement, Mohammed Nazzal, said the factions agreed and adhered to a complete cease-fire in late June that lasted less than two months. He said it will be up to Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon to declare his intentions to seek a full cease-fire. "We are saying if Sharon is ready to stop his killing against Palestinian people, let him declare that clearly, then we will study. But, we are not ready to make it again as a free initiative from the Palestinian side," he said.

It is unclear what effect the collapsed meeting in Cairo will have on plans for a possible summit between the Israeli and Palestinian prime ministers. Officials from both sides were meeting Sunday to arrange such a meeting.