Ceasefire 'not enough' Israel tells France

7th February 2005, Comments 0 comments

JERUSALEM, Feb 7 (AFP) - Israeli Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom said Monday that a ceasefire by militant groups was not enough and demanded that the Palestinian leadership move decisively to disarm them once and for all.

JERUSALEM, Feb 7 (AFP) - Israeli Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom said Monday that a ceasefire by militant groups was not enough and demanded that the Palestinian leadership move decisively to disarm them once and for all.

"We must be clear, a ceasefire is not enough. It is an optical illusion which will only explode sooner or later in our faces," Shalom told a joint news conference with visiting French counterpart Michel Barnier.

"The PA (Palestinian Authority) must act to deny the terrorists their capacity to strike, they must dismantle the Qassam (makeshift rocket) factories, confiscate illegal weapons, prevent smuggling and put known terrorists on trial," he said.

Shalom's comments came ahead of a potentially breakthrough summit between Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and Palestinian leader Mahmud Abbas in the Egyptian resort of Sharm el-Sheikh on Tuesday.

The summit, which is also to be attended by Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and King Abdullah II of Jordan, is widely expected to close with a joint declaration seeking to draw a line under four years of armed uprising.

Abbas has publicly called for an end to the armed struggle against Israel and vowed to press for a ceasefire by militant groups. He has already received an informal commitment from militant leaders for a "cooling down" period.

"A ceasefire leaves the fate of the process in the hands of Hamas instead of the hands of those who seek peace," Shalom said, referring to the largest militant group.

"The forthcoming summit in Sharm el-Sheikh offers an opportunity to address these issues directly but the real test is the test of actions not of declarations, the test of outcomes not of ceremonies.

"It is our hope that this same message will be conveyed to the Palestinians by our French partners," he said.

Following talks with Shalom, the French minister met with Sharon at his office in Jerusalem.

"I am sure that (Barnier's) visit will bring about a strengthening of ties between Israel and France and will certainly work and help towards achieving order in the Middle East," Sharon said after the meeting, a statement from his office said.

For his part, Barnier welcomed the "renewed peace process" and said he was "happy to meet the prime minister at a time of action, hope and negotiation which all started with the (planned) withdrawal from Gaza," the statement quoted him as saying.

Barnier, who was due to meet Abbas in the West Bank town of Ramallah later Monday, said: "The resumption of dialogue between Ariel Sharon and new Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas is generating hope."

He described Sharon's decision to evacuate all 21 Gaza settlements and four others on the West Bank later this year "courageous" and added: "I firmly believe that Mahmud Abbas is the peace partner Israel is looking for."

Shalom stressed Israel's willingness to take goodwill measures towards the Palestinians, including a planned transfer of security control in five West Bank towns, the release of 900 detainees and a temporary freeze on arrests of wanted militants.

"We should help Abu Mazen (Abbas) and at the same time he should help us because I believe that the only formula that will give us the power to move forward is that we will ease their lives with the gestures I mentioned and they will ease the lives of the Israelis by putting and end to terrorism and violence," he said.

© AFP

Subject: French News

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