Second MEast Article

The agreement was reportedly achieved during talks in Damascus between PA Prime Minister Ahmed Qurei and leaders of Hamas and Islamic Jihad.

August 23, 2005 11:29
3 minute read.
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2secondEast. (photo credit: AP)

The agreement was reportedly achieved during talks in Damascus between PA Prime Minister Ahmed Qurei and leaders of Hamas and Islamic Jihad. Qurei met Sunday night in Damascus with leaders of various radical groups, including Hamas and Islamic Jihad, and discussed ways of cooperating with them after implementation of the disengagement plan is completed. Sources close to the two groups said Qurei made it clear that the PA would not confiscate the weapons of any of the armed groups in the Gaza Strip. Musa Abu Marzouk, a senior Hamas leader based in Syria, said the meeting was held in a "cordial atmosphere" and that the two sides agreed that the Palestinians should have a joint strategy after disengagement. "We stressed during the meeting that the Palestinians have the right to continue the resistance [against Israel] and that there would be no attempt to collect weapons from the resistance groups," he said. "The weapons of the resistance were founded to defend the Palestinian people and resist the occupation," he added. "The Gaza victory was achieved with the weapons of the resistance, which is the only strategy to drive Israel out of the rest of our lands." Qurei met earlier with Syrian President Bashar Assad and discussed with him the Israeli pullout from the Gaza Strip and northern West Bank. He briefed Assad on Israel's settlement expansion in the West Bank and Jerusalem, and the ongoing preparations of the PA for the aftermath of disengagement, the Syrian news agency Sana reported. "Gaza is a part of Palestine, and there will be no calm until the establishment of an independent Palestinian state with Jerusalem as its capital," Qurei told reporters after the meeting. He lauded Syrian-Palestinian relations, saying they were based on "full cooperation and consultation." Meanwhile, PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas told a European envoy Monday that the Israeli disengagement from the Gaza Strip was not enough and that Israel should withdraw to the pre-1967 borders. Abbas, who met in his office in Gaza City with European Union Middle East envoy Mark Otteh, called for international pressure on Israel after disengagement to revive the peace process and implement the road map plan. Abbas also met with US, Russian and United Nations officials and urged them to put pressure on Israel to withdraw from the entire West Bank and east Jerusalem and to stop construction of the security fence. Nabil Abu Rudaineh, a spokesman for Abbas, said the Quartet the US, Russia, the EU and the UN was working toward ensuring a smooth Israeli withdrawal from the Gaza Strip and northern West Bank. He said the Quartet was also seeking ways of helping the Palestinians rebuild the Gaza Strip and that its representatives would meet in New York next month to discuss providing financial aid to the PA. Otteh said after the meeting with Abbas that Europe would help the Palestinians improve their living conditions and boost their economy to create jobs for the unemployed. He said the EU had already provided the PA with $500 million for various projects in the West Bank, Gaza Strip and Jerusalem.

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