PNA rejects Sharon's changes to Road Map, giving up right of return
Palestine-Israel, Politics, 4/14/2003
The Palestine National Authority (PNA) on Sunday refused Israeli suggested amendments to the internationally - drafted "roadmap" to peace in the Middle East, rejected Israel's demand to give up the right of return of Palestinian refugees and warned the US administration against giving in to Israeli terms and conditions.
The PNA said:
The changes Israel seeks to introduce to the "roadmap" -- adopted by an international Quartet of diplomatic mediators representing the United Nations, the United States, the European Union and Russia but not yet released or implemented -- "is the best prescription to undermine it," said the PNA Minister of Culture and Information Yasser Abed Rabbo.
Israel's aim is to "obstruct the implementation of the 'roadmap' by restricting its implementation with conditions and making its enforcement subject to Israeli desires, and by making these desires the terms of reference for the 'roadmap'," Abed Rabbo said in a press release on Sunday.
The Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon has accepted the roadmap "in principle," although aides say he wants fifteen amendments thereto. His chief of staff Dov Weisglass left for Washington on Saturday night to present the Israeli suggested changes to the "roadmap."
Palestinian President Yasser Arafat's media adviser Nabil Abu Rudeinah refused any amendments to the peace plan.
"We will refuse any amendments and we have been informed by the Quartet, and especially by the United States, that there would not be any amendments to the roadmap," he said.
The PNA accused Sharon of trying to make the resumption of the peace process impossible.
Sharon is maneuvering to avoid implementing the Israeli obligations as stipulated by the "roadmap" in order to "obstruct the entire peace process," said Abed Rabbo.
The PNA Minister of International Cooperation Nabil Sha'ath urged Sharon to accept the "roadmap" without conditions and to start implementing it immediately to prove that he is really interested in reviving the peace process.
"If he (Sharon) desires to go back to the peace process, there is the 'roadmap,' which he has to accept clearly," he said, adding "there is no other plan but the 'roadmap' and he has to be very clear whether he accepts it or he is against it."
Sha'ath rejected Sharon's demand that Palestinians give up the right of return for over four million Palestinian refugees - who are living in exile since the IOF forced them out of their homeland in 1948 Ð before releasing the "roadmap."
This demand "is totally rejected," said Sha'ath.
The PNA said this Israeli demand renders the "roadmap" a non-starter.
"I believe that this is a flagrant attempt to sabotage and undermine the roadmap," Palestinian cabinet minister Sa'eb Erekat said. "This is another way of saying the Israeli government is rejecting the roadmap."
Some 3.9 million Palestinian refugees are registered with the UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA). Most of them live in the West Bank, Gaza Strip, Jordan, Lebanon and Syria. Israeli leaders have said their return to their former homes would be a demographic suicide for Israel, which has a population of 5.8 million.
"There is a possibility that when we have a real and durable peace and the Palestinians give up the right of return, then we'll have to make painful concessions. They call it the right of return, I call it the right to destroy Israel as a Jewish state," Sharon said.
Dov Weisglass, chief of Sharon's bureau, will meet US National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice in Washington on Monday to convey the 15 amendments drafted by Sharon's advisers. He was accompanied by officials from the Israeli foreign and "defence" ministries.
Sharon's Public Relations Ploy
In an interview with the Israeli daily Ha'aretz, Sharon said that after the "shock" that had rippled across the region with the US occupation of Iraq, "there is therefore a chance to reach an agreement faster than people think."
"We face the possibility that a different period will begin here. The move carried out in Iraq generated a shock through the Middle East and it brings with it the prospect of great change," he told the newspaper.
In his first major interview since the Iraq war began, Sharon also said, "One has to view things realistically."
"Eventually there will be a Palestinian state... I do not think we have to rule over another people and run their lives."
The PNA lashed out at Sharon's statements as a public relations ploy.
"Sharon's statements come within a public relations context," Sha'ath said.
"What counts is that Sharon declares his agreement with the roadmap and start implementing it, starting with withdrawing from the Palestinian territories,"Abu Rudeinah added.
"The United States and the Quartet must exert enough efforts to force Israel to implement the roadmap, this is the real test," he added.
French FM: 'Roadmap' Should Be Implemented
French Foreign Minister Dominique de Villepin said Saturday that it was time for the so-called "roadmap" to be formally introduced, and said France was prepared to host a peace conference once that step was taken.
In addressing the "painful conflict between the Palestinians and Israelis that is bleeding the region," he said that "On the Israeli side, everyone can see it: security comes only with peace, and peace requires difficult concessions," he said in a speech to a diplomatic group in Cairo. "On the Palestinian side, the renunciation of violence, which is a dead-end, is more necessary than ever."
De Villepin was in Cairo on the first leg of a Middle East tour, which took him to Syria, Saudi Arabis and Lebanon to discuss the US-British invasion of Iraq and the peace process in the Middle East.
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